“EKOCENTER is incredible! I had no idea Coke did all of this." – Boston College student

“Wow, I really did not know Coca-Cola did all these things for the environment!” – Texas Southern University student

These students are not alone. Since launching in 2013, the impact of EKOCENTER – a modular community market (and more) run by local woman entrepreneurs that provides everything from safe water to solar power – is still not widely known beyond the walls of The Coca-Cola Company. But the EKOCENTER team is determined to change that, starting with college campuses.

“By making students aware of what we’re doing with initiatives like EKOCENTER that grow our business and positively impact societal issues, they can help us spread the word, become more engaged in the projects, and hopefully consider joining a company like ours,” says Simon Bartlett, EKOCENTER partnerships and marketing director, Coca-Cola.

EKOCENTER Goes to College

EKOCENTER worked recently with Coca-Cola College Ambassadors to deploy an engaging and educational EKOCENTER experience across 33 campuses nationwide. The program was part of Coke's second-annual Earth Week Campus Activation initiative. Students, faculty and staff were invited to learn about Coca-Cola’s commitment to sustainability through interactive experiences.

The highlight of the experience was a virtual reality (VR) 360-degreee look at an operational EKOCENTER in Rwanda. The video offered a rare glimpse inside one of the 150 EKOCENTERs located across eight countries worldwide.

Wearing an Oculus headset, students transported virtually from their bustling college campuses to the lively town of Ruhunda. Totally immersed in their new virtual surroundings, a short video switched scenes every 15 seconds to showcase several different parts of town where EKOCENTER plays an important role. From the town center where locals can access Wi-Fi, to the community soccer pitch where Philips solar LED lights provide four hours of lighting to continue matches and other community gatherings past sundown, it is clear to see the positive impact this particular EKOCENTER has made since launching in 2016. 

Bartlett says it’s one thing to read about what EKOCENTER adds to community, but to truly understand the social enterprise, people have to see it with their own eyes. Watch this modified VR video below (via Google Chrome or the YouTube app).

Students also went head to head in a variety of sustainability challenges for an opportunity to win a handmade item from women entrepreneurs empowered by Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative. Winners could choose from variety of handmade artisan gifts including satchel bags, wallets and cell phone cases made by 5by20 artisans from Mexico, Uganda and Great Britain. (See a full list of 5by20 items available online here).

Students try their luck in a recycling game to win prizes handmade by Coca-Cola 5by20 artisans. Image from University of Texas, El Paso.

The ultimate goal was for this activation was “for people to understand that when they purchase our products, they enable this impactful work,” says Bobbie Sampson, strategic partnership marketing, Coca-Cola. “Programs like EKOCENTER and 5by20 are only possible because consumers believe in our brands and our efforts,” she concludes.

Want to learn more? Click here for a full EKOCENTER infographic.