Various Coca-Cola brands' cans and bottles

‘Our Best Days Remain Ahead,’ Coca‑Cola CEO Tells Shareowners

Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, Coca‑Cola embraced the need for change, provided support for COVID-19 relief efforts, and remained resilient


The Coca‑Cola Company’s purpose – to refresh the world and make a difference – grounded and guided the organization throughout a tumultuous 2020, Chairman and CEO James Quincey told shareowners April 20. 

“A year of pandemic changed our business and our industry in ways that will endure,” Quincey said during the company’s 2020 annual meeting, held virtually for the second year in a row. “As an organization, we embraced the need for change and remained resilient in the face of uncertainty. Our people adapted to new conditions to support our communities and our business.” 

In 2020, the Coca‑Cola system, including The Coca‑Cola Foundation, provided more than $90 million to support COVID-19 relief efforts – benefiting 25 million people in 118 countries. And despite temporary disruptions caused by the pandemic, the company made important strides against its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) priorities, including: 

  • Announcing a goal to reduce global use of virgin PET.
  • Setting a 2030 science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% compared to a 2015 baseline.  
  • Maintaining a 100% water replenishment rate globally.  
  • Surpassing a goal of enabling the economic empowerment of more than 5 million women through the 5by20 initiative  
  • Announcing 2030 aspirations to mirror the diversity of the markets the company serves and to share diversity data in its annual Business & Environmental, Social and Governance Report

Coca‑Cola’s Global Beverage Portfolio

The company continued to drive shareowner value in 2020 by streamlining its global beverage portfolio to approximately 200 master brands and refocusing resources on marketing and innovation. A new, networked organizational model combining the power of global scale with the deep knowledge required to win locally will support this shift and speed the transition to a digitized, data-driven enterprise aligned with the Beverages for Life vision.  

“A good starting point matters,” Quincey said. “We went into the crisis in 2020 from a position of strength, and we are now equipped to emerge even stronger.”  

Trademark Coca‑Cola returned to growth in the back half of 2020, with Coca‑Cola Zero Sugar contributing 4% volume growth. As consumers shifted to drinking more beverages at home during the pandemic, Simply juice and fairlife milk grew double digits in North America. 

Coca‑Cola Remains Optimistic

While COVID-19 continues to present challenges, the company – which will celebrate its 135th  birthday on May 8 – is optimistic about the future. 

During the meeting, shareowners voted to approve management proposals to re-elect all directors to one-year terms expiring in 2022, to support an advisory vote on executive compensation, and to ratify the appointment of Ernst & Young to serve as the company's independent auditors for the 2021 fiscal year. A shareowner proposal requesting a board report on sugar and public health was rejected by more than 90% of the shareowner vote. More specifics are included in the company’s proxy statement.

Quincey also fielded shareowner questions on topics ranging from the company’s support of voting rights and recently announced diversity targets, to plans to eliminate single-use plastics, to how COVID-19 continues to impact on-premise/away-from-home beverage sales. 

Forward-Looking Statements 

“Looking ahead, I’m hopeful – as I know many of you are – that the world is beginning to emerge from the pandemic,” Quincey concluded. “I’m confident our best days remain ahead."

This press release may contain statements, estimates or projections that constitute “forward-looking statements” as defined under U.S. federal securities laws. Generally, the words “believe,” “expect,” “intend,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “project,” “will” and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements, which generally are not historical in nature. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause The Coca‑Cola Company’s actual results to differ materially from its historical experience and our present expectations or projections. These risks include, but are not limited to, the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business; an inability to realize the economic benefits from our productivity initiatives, including our reorganization and related strategic realignment initiatives; an inability to attract or retain a highly skilled and diverse workforce; increased competition; an inability to renew collective bargaining agreements on satisfactory terms, or we or our bottling partners experience strikes, work stoppages or labor unrest; an inability to be successful in our innovation activities; changes in the retail landscape or the loss of key retail or foodservice customers; an inability to expand operations in emerging and developing markets; increased cost, disruption of supply or shortage of energy or fuel; increased cost, disruption of supply or shortage of ingredients, other raw materials, packaging materials, aluminum cans and other containers; an inability to successfully manage new product launches; obesity and other health related concerns; evolving consumer product and shopping preferences; product safety and quality concerns; perceived negative health consequences of certain ingredients, such as non-nutritive sweeteners and biotechnology-derived substances, and of other substances present in our beverage products or packaging materials; damage to our brand image, corporate reputation and social license to operate from negative publicity, whether or not warranted, concerning product safety or quality, workplace and human rights, obesity or other issues; an inability to maintain good relationships with our bottling partners; deterioration in our bottling partners’ financial condition; an inability to successfully integrate and manage consolidated bottling operations or other acquired businesses or brands; an inability to successfully manage our refranchising activities; increases in income tax rates, changes in income tax laws or the unfavorable resolution of tax matters, including the outcome of our ongoing tax dispute or any related disputes with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”); the possibility that the assumptions used to calculate our estimated aggregate incremental tax and interest liability related to the potential unfavorable outcome of the ongoing tax dispute with the IRS could significantly change; increased or new indirect taxes in the United States and throughout the world; changes in laws and and regulations relating to beverage containers and packaging; significant additional labeling or warning requirements or limitations on the marketing or sale of our products; litigation or legal proceedings; conducting business in markets with high-risk legal compliance environments; failure to adequately protect, or disputes relating to, trademarks, formulae and other intellectual property rights; changes in, or failure to comply with, the laws and regulations applicable to our products or our business operations; fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates; interest rate increases; unfavorable general economic conditions in the United States and international markets; an inability to achieve our overall long-term growth objectives; default by or failure of one or more of our counterparty financial institutions; impairment charges; failure to realize a significant portion of the anticipated benefits of our strategic relationship with Monster Beverage Corporation; an inability to protect our information systems against service interruption, misappropriation of data or breaches of security; failure to comply with personal data protection and privacy laws; failure to digitize the Coca‑Cola system; failure by our third-party service providers and business partners to satisfactorily fulfill their commitments and responsibilities; increasing concerns about the environmental impact of plastic bottles and other plastic packaging materials; water scarcity and poor quality; increased demand for food products and decreased agricultural productivity; climate change and legal or regulatory responses thereto; adverse weather conditions; and other risks discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020, which filings are available from the SEC. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date they are made. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.