Global Challenges

Charitable Contributions

We know it's not all about us

True sustainability means looking beyond the concerns of our business and considering our connections with the world at large. It involves contemplation of our role in addressing global challenges that are far bigger than any one company—challenges such as climate change, water stewardship, economic disparity and more. And it means, simply, doing what we can in response: stepping up with our resources and influence to play a part in solving seemingly intractable problems.

Inside every bottle of Coca-Cola is the work of a global system—of people in more than 200 countries who are citizens first—focused intently on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Here is a snapshot of how we’re responding.


Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980, according to the World Health Organization1. The United States Centers for Disease Control reports that in the U.S. alone, 17 percent of children and adolescents between 2 and 19 are obese, while more than a third of adults are obese2. The obesity epidemic has enormous ramifications on health, mortality, the cost of medical care, quality of life, and much more.

Yet obesity is preventable. Along with maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, exercise is one of the best ways to prevent obesity. Dr. Chip Lavie, Medical Director for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, says increasing physical activity and fitness are essential to reducing obesity and its ill effects:

"Recent statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA) emphasize the continuing burden of cardiovascular disease in the U.S., with a prevalence nearing 40 percent in those approaching 60 years of age, and exceeding 70 percent in older ages. Direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease and stroke in the U.S. exceeded $300 billion in 2008. The projected total cost of cardiovascular disease by 2015 is staggering – over $500 billion. It is evident cardiovascular disease is costly to our healthcare systems.

Part of the cause of this epidemic is the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity in our society, which has an adverse impact on almost all of the major cardiovascular disease risk factors. Clearly, overweight and obesity are placing a very ‘heavy’ toll on our society.

Energy intake, the amount of calories you consume, is often blamed for the epidemic of overweight and obesity. But this blame ignores an even more significant factor in our society—a lack of physical activity. Lack of physical activity leads to a reduction in fitness, an increase in overweight and obesity, and diseases like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, a high level of fitness is perhaps the strongest predictor of cardiovascular prognosis and all-cause survival— a true testament to the many benefits of physical activity. While energy intake may help prevent and treat overweight and obesity, we also need to focus more on improving and increasing physical activity and fitness to prevent these disorders in the first place."

Based on the scientific evidence, we agree with Dr. Lavie. And we’re helping the world get moving. We sponsor more than 280 active, healthy living programs in over 115 countries worldwide. Read about them—and the other ways we’re contributing to the development of a workable solution to obesity—in the Active Healthy Living section of this report.

A high level of fitness is perhaps the strongest predictor of cardiovascular prognosis and all-cause survival.

Water Stewardship

Of the 9.25 million trillion gallons1 of water on earth, less than one percent2 are available to meet the needs of the planet’s 7 billion-plus3 people. And stress on the world’s water supplies—from population growth, urbanization, climate change and more—is increasing. Preserving and effectively managing the world’s available freshwater—achieving what policymakers call water security—may be humanity’s most crucial task.

In that sobering reality, Margaret Catley-Carlson, past chair of the Global Water Partnership, sees hope—provided that all of us are committed to the stewardship that water security demands. In Ms. Catley-Carlson’s words:

"In the clamor of facts, figures and dramatic predictions, there is a constant quiet message about water adequacy: we probably have enough water, but not if we use it the way we do now.

What does that mean, exactly?

Mostly it means that the growing number of countries, cities, corporations— and yes, individuals— experiencing or threatened with water stress will have to change the way they manage and use the water resources available to them. Sizeable investments will be needed in the all-too-many places where municipal pipes leak 30 to 60 percent of the water that is stored, cleaned and put into the system for distribution. Industrial, energy and agricultural processes must be examined to understand the potential for reduction, recycling and re-use. Having ‘enough water to eat’ means optimizing the use of the 75 percent-plus of all water used that goes to agriculture. And it means changes in how we use water as individuals, too. Why do we flush with drinking water?

That improvements are being made (though not in enough places) means there are prototypes and technology available; the will to make these more widespread will have to be cultivated and encouraged. But it has been done and can be done, even in resource-poor areas.

Kudos to companies already embarked on this process, and especially to those trying to extend water-saving practices up and especially down their supply chains. Again, it can be done. It has been done. More needs to be done.

Since few of these measures are cost-free, the unwelcome but essential change almost everywhere will be that most of us need to pay more for water services—sanitation and wastewater services included—to protect us and our water resources. We are not the only life form that depends on water for survival, so we have a high interest in making sure that the environmental resources that sustain us are in turn sustained by us."

At The Coca-Cola Company, we are intensely involved in water stewardship across our system and in hundreds of communities throughout the world. We are working to use water more efficiently. We are treating and recycling wastewater. And we aim to replenish the amount of water used in our finished beverages by 2020. Read about our progress in the Water Stewardship section of this report.

Women’s economic opportunity

Too many women around the world face barriers to financial independence. And when women lack economic power, communities suffer.

Fortunately, people around the world recognize the imperative to empower women economically and are collaborating to make it happen. In 2010, United Nations member states took the historical step of creating UN Women to accelerate its goals on gender equality. Says UN Director Michelle Bachelet, “Now more than ever, the world needs to unleash women's talent and energy if we are to make our economies and societies stronger.”

Our 5 BY 20 program is helping to address economic gender disparity by helping to remove economic barriers for women in our value chain. Our goal? To enable the economic empowerment of five million women by 2020.

Says Executive Director, UN Women Michelle Bachelet, “Companies are realizing that investing in women is an essential ingredient in the formula for success. We can no longer afford to waste the potential of half the world´s population. It is both a matter of justice as well as good business and economic sense.”

Read about 5by20’s progress in 2011. And meet some of the women entrepreneurs we’re working with here.

The most important moment in my life was when I started my own shop. I feel good that I am running this shop along with my husband. I have also gained respect in my family. I desire for my children to go to a good school and make something of themselves. -Preeti Gupta. Rural shopkeeper, wife and mother of three. Agra, India.

Workplace and Human Rights

In the never-ending effort to ensure respect for human rights, business has a vital role to play. That role was clearly articulated in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. The Guiding Principles provide the first global standard for preventing and addressing business’ adverse impacts on human rights.

Harvard University’s John Ruggie developed the Guiding Principles over six years of consultations, research and pilot projects. Our Company took part in several of Professor Ruggie’s consultations. We are proud to have been involved in Professor Ruggie’s work, and are proud to now use the Guiding Principles as a key touchstone for our own policies and programs related to workplace and human rights.

As Professor Ruggie explains:

“The Guiding Principles constitute the most authoritative global human rights instrument linked to business. They lay out the duties of states to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need for remedy where harm does occur.

In addition to calling on businesses to adopt a human rights policy statement, the Guiding Principals also provide the means for them to know and show that they respect human rights. These include a human rights due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address adverse impacts on human rights; and processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute.

By reducing the risk that companies cause or contribute to human rights harm, the UN Guiding Principles protect human rights, build trust between companies and their internal and external stakeholders, and help ensure that fragile global markets become socially more inclusive and sustainable.”

Our Company has numerous opportunities to promote respect for human rights—through our labor practices and policies, our procurement of ingredients and supplies, our plant siting, our consumption of resources, our actions as a corporate citizen in the communities that host our operations and much more. Read about our efforts to apply the Guiding Principles and respect human rights in our Company, our system and our supply chain here.

Features of the Guiding Principles have been incorporated into the updated OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the new European Union corporate social responsibility strategy, the International Finance Corporation’s revised sustainability policy, and ISO 26000.

When the European Union suspended economic sanctions against Burma (Myanmar), it referenced the Guiding Principles as benchmarks for investors planning to enter that market.

3 National Geographic, April 2010 and online.
4 UN Water and National Geographic.
5 U.S. Census Bureau