I believe in the power of business to change our world for the better. Not in theory. Not in the distant future. But right now. And it comes down to companies and individuals doing something extraordinary in the ordinary course of doing business.

Doing Good Via the Golden Triangle

Given the scale and complexity of today’s health and environmental issues, it’s challenging for one business — even one industry — to make a material difference on its own. Instead, we must rely on partnerships that connect across what I call the “Golden Triangle” of business, government and civil society.

Indeed, more and more companies are finding that we have something more valuable to offer for the good of the public than just our dollars, yen and euros. And that’s our expertise. Our know-how. Our unique and specific strengths. 

For The Coca-Cola Company, this means fully leveraging our organizational expertise in, among other things, marketing and distribution. For years, in fact, people have been wondering aloud: If Coca-Cola can reach the remotest corners of the world, could we help others do the same?

The short answer, of course, is yes. And I believe the best way to share our expertise and put it to work for others is through Golden Triangle partnerships.

Company Success Stories — Across the Planet

At Coca-Cola, we know our business can only be as strong, sustainable and healthy as the communities we proudly serve. Our well-being as a business is wholly interwoven with the well-being of our people, our consumers, our partners and our communities.

Take, for example, NetsforLife, a Golden Triangle partnership dedicated to battling malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2006 The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation has been involved with NetsforLife, which has trained nearly 74,000 malaria control agents, distributed 8.5 million mosquito nets and saved the lives of more than 100,000 children.

AIDS, meanwhile, may well be the defining health challenge of our time. In addition to an existing partnership with The Global Fund, we teamed up with (RED) in late 2011 to raise money and awareness in the fight against AIDS. Using our music platforms and other resources, we now have a chance to help virtually eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015.

The Coca-Cola system is also working with The Global Fund, The Gates Foundation and the Yale Health Leadership Institute to increase access to vital medicines in Tanzania.

Leveraging our supply chain expertise, we’re helping the country’s Medical Stores Department develop a new distribution strategy, redesign core processes and train more than 50 medical stores staffers. To date, Tanzania has increased active points of distribution from 500 to 5,000 and reduced lead times of some medicines by as many as 25 days.

To me, this is a very exciting Golden Triangle initiative — one that reveals the vast, largely untapped potential of businesses, governments and NGOs to collaborate creatively together.

In fact, we’re now working with our partners to replicate what’s happening in Tanzania in Ghana and Mozambique.

Water is another Golden Triangle focus for us, as we work with our partners to become water-neutral by 2020. In other words, we plan to return to nature an amount of water equal to what we use in making our beverages.

Since 2005 we’ve conducted 286 community water projects in 94 countries, working with governments and partners including World Wildlife Fund, USAID, The Nature Conservancy and CARE.

With each project, we’re bringing significant life change to people — particularly the women and girls who might otherwise spend hours a day carrying water.

Most recently, we’ve unveiled plans to deploy a self-contained, community water purifier that can operate anywhere people need clean water. Invented by our friend Dean Kamen — most famous for creating the Segway — the new Slingshot water purifier has the potential to increase the health and quality of life for literally countless people.

We’ve piloted several tests and announced plans to begin introducing this technology in parts of Africa and South America in 2013.

The Coca-Cola Company’s Road Map for Change

By building on nearly a century of cooperation, we’re now able to do more good for more people more quickly than ever before. But in order to effect change, we believe that five key criteria should be met in order to have an impact:

  • Share what you know. This includes your expertise, your know-how — what you do better than anyone else. Specialized know-how is often far more valuable than money.
  • Get going. Pilot, see what works, tweak what doesn’t and scale up from there. Perfection is the enemy of very good.
  • Team up with the right partners. The right partners make all the difference.
  • Hold people and partners accountable. Very little progress happens without accountability.
  • Make it sustainable. In Tanzania, we’re sharing our distribution expertise with the Medical Stores Department, which can use and expand their new system indefinitely.

At Coca-Cola, we’re committed to Golden Triangle partnerships, and we see every day how they’re improving peoples’ lives and, ultimately, changing the world for the better.

Today, I would encourage you — whether you’re in business, government, the nonprofit world or simply a concerned private citizen — to think about ways you might be able to partner with others to create positive change. And then take the first step. You never know how many lives you might touch.


Muhtar Kent is the chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company.