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:
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.
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.
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