• Share

Davos 2013: Coca-Cola Leaders Join Global Conversation on Growth, Resiliency

By:  Jay Moye Jan 30, 2013
Tags & Topics:
World Economic Forum


DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2013 Annual Meeting concluded this weekend, wrapping up a series of conversations on leading through adversity, rebuilding economic confidence, unleashing entrepreneurial innovation, strengthening societal resilience and other pressing topics.

Muhtar Kent

Muhtar Kent participates in a CNN debate on ‘Emerging Markets at a Crossroads.’ Citing growth across the developing world that has lifted 450 million people out of poverty in the last 10 years, Kent noted that, ‘everyone will rise with the sea.’

When asked in an official WEF interview to define the theme of the meeting – “Resilient Dynamism” – Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent responded, “History has shown us, time and again, that the world’s most resilient organizations are those that do more than just prepare for change and turbulence. Instead, they see – and seize – opportunity in the eye of the storm. They leverage the opportunities that exist in times of turbulence and global economic downturn.” Read Kent’s essay for The Huffington Post about what resiliency means to The Coca-Cola Company.

This tone carried through the week as Kent – who served as one of the meeting’s six co-chairs – and other Coca-Cola executives joined more than 2,500 international leaders in exploring collaborative solutions to keeping the global economy moving despite persistent headwinds.

“Davos is not a place where decisions are made,” Kent said during an interview with CBS News. “Davos is a place where the agenda is shaped. But I think everyone recognizes that we need to provide quicker, better, more action-orientated solutions.”

Kent participated in a televised CNN International panel discussion on the important role the developing world plays in reigniting global growth. Growth in larger emerging markets has slowed recently, yet these economies continue to outpace the developing world by a ratio of three to one.

“While we’d like emerging market growth rates to be higher, they are still carrying the world and will continue to carry the world,” Kent said, adding that Coca-Cola has earmarked $35 billion in multi-year investments in key emerging markets including Russia, Brazil, Mexico, the Middle East and China.

‘Everyone will rise’

Emerging market growth is creating a global middle class that is projected to reach 5 billion by 2030, lifting 450 million people out of poverty in the last 10 years alone and, in turn, creating a brighter future for everyone. “Everyone will rise with the sea,” Kent added.

Youth unemployment represents one of the biggest threats to global growth, Kent said, noting that more than 70 million young people under 28 are currently out of work.

“If we’re not able to do something,” he said, “this issue will dislocate the growth trends we are seeing by creating cracks in the social fabric in the emerging world as well as in western markets.”

‘Our generation does not sit on the sidelines’

Global Shapers

Coca-Cola hosted a reception honoring the Global Shapers. The group of 20- to 30-year-olds helped bring a millennial voice to Davos.

The World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community – which has mobilized 1,700 young leaders in 205 cities to develop solutions to our toughest challenges – brought to the table a unique, first-hand perspective to the issue of youth unemployment, a hot topic throughout the weeklong meeting.

Coca-Cola – a founding partner of the Global Shapers initiative – hosted a reception for 50 Shapers in Davos and announced a challenge to the community to return to the WEF 2014 Annual Meeting with proof points of work done to help address the world’s problems. One project will be granted $50,000 in seed money to expand its reach, and five projects will be granted $10,000 to sustain and expand their efforts.

Kent said the participation of these entrepreneurial leaders set the WEF meeting apart from previous years.

“Listening to this group, there is so much learning,” he added. “Their expectations of the world are different than ours… theirs view of the world and of business are different than ours… their levels of courage are different than ours… and their risk-taking ability and execution abilities are different than ours. I look forward to this exciting journey.” Read about Kent’s passion for the Global Shapers in his Unbottled blog, and hear from Leticia Mariana Jáuregui Casanueva, a Mexico City-based Shaper, about her experience in Davos.

The under-30 demographic has been hit especially hard by unemployment. Global Shaper Meghann Gunderman, who was recognized by Kent and WEF Founder Klaus Schwab during a Davos plenary session, cited a recent study revealing that 84 percent of millennials have put off a major life decision such as buying a house or getting married due to the issue.

Gunderman’s Global Shapers hub in Charlotte, N.C. recently invited young leaders to submit ideas to create jobs for young professionals.

“Our generation does not sit on the sidelines,” she said. “We have an inherent desire to help society and be part of the solution.”

Dispatches from Davos

Muhtar Kent conducted several interviews with international media outlets during the WEF Annual Meeting. Take a look:

CBS News – Coca-Cola CEO on Economy: ‘Things Will Get Better’

CNBC – Coca-Cola CEO: Youth Unemployment Key

Fox Business – Coca-Cola CEO: Water is a Very Big Issue in the World

Bloomberg TV – Coca-Cola CEO Says Right to Be in Obesity Fight