WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Coca-Cola Company is joining eight other top consumer companies to collectively source products and services from U.S. women-owned businesses (WOBs) over the next five years. This marks the first time the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) will launch a formal initiative to publicly report aggregated spending on WOBs. The cooperative purchasing power aims to create shared value by bringing innovative products to consumers and helping women-owned businesses flourish.

“Empowering women entrepreneurs and women-owned firms is smart business and smart economics,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “Whenever you do the right thing and give businesswomen a real opportunity to compete, this creates a positive ripple effect that allows her to strengthen her company, her family and her community. And stronger families and communities help fuel more growth and opportunity.”

Collaborative WBE Slide

Other participating companies include Campbell Soup Company, ExxonMobil, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Mondelēz International, PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble and Walmart. Corporate support comes at a critical time as women entrepreneurs globally report having smaller and less diverse networks, placing them at a disadvantage for advancement and relevance to the global market.

The collective sourcing announcement was made today at Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit in Washington, D.C. The summit convened leaders from business, government, NGOs and academia to discuss and celebrate the achievements of women’s empowerment. Kent participated as a panelist, along with senior leadership from other consumer companies contributing to the initiative.

Advancing Women’s Empowerment From the Top

When Kent became CEO of The Coca-Cola Company eight years ago, one stat jumped out at him: Women represented almost 70 percent of all shopping transactions for Coca-Cola brands and more than $2.5 trillion in economic value globally, yet accounted for only 18 percent of leadership roles at the company.

“That, to me, was a huge disconnect that had to have some real attention,” he said during the panel moderated by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

Kent formed a Women’s Leadership Council at Coke to promote the recruitment, retention, development and advancement of female leaders. He also made it a priority to boost the number of women on the company's board of directors. As a result, 40 percent of senior posts at the company are now held by women, and the number of female directors has doubled, from two to four.

“But more importantly, women in our leadership pipeline have climbed from 23 percent to 31 percent,” Kent added, referring to high-potential talent at the mid-management level.

Recognizing the need to empower women outside the four walls of The Coca-Cola Company, Kent also spearheaded the 2010 launch of 5by20, an ambitious initiative to support the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs globally by 2020. 

Elizabeth is an economically empowered 5by20 entrepreneur who is providing clean water access for her community in Kenya.

Coke partners with fellow businesses, governments and NGOs at the local level to identify women entrepreneurs and provide training in accounting, stock rotation, distribution, logistics and more, and connect them to microcredit. Many 5by20 entrepreneurs in Africa are small retailers, and others in Latin America and Brazil work as artisans.

“All of this is for a purpose,” Kent explained, noting that 5by20 is part of Coke’s “3Ws” sustainability strategy focused on Women, Water and Well-being. “In today’s world, increasingly, a brand is a promise and a good brand is a promise kept. In order to continue to keep promises to consumers every day, we have to fulfill a promise other than simply producing a great-tasting product.”

'Economically empowered women help make communities better around the world. And when communities get stronger around the world, global businesses become stronger.'

He concluded, “This is a journey. It’s hard work, but very necessary to transfer a better world to the next generation. Economically empowered women help make communities better around the world. And when communities get stronger around the world, global businesses become stronger.”

WBENC included The Coca-Cola Company on its 16th annual list of America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises (WBEs) in 2016.

Supporting women empowerment programs aligns with The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 initiative, which is working to economically empower 5 million women entrepreneurs across the Company’s value chain by 2020. Since 2010, 5by20 has reached a total of more than 1.7 million women entrepreneurs across 64 countries.