At Coca-Cola we believe that we are one of the world’s most inclusive brands and we are proud to serve our beverages everywhere we are allowed to operate, which includes over 200 countries around the world, of which 14 countries are in the Middle East.
Over recent weeks, we’ve received a number of questions, and heard a few misperceptions, regarding our operations in the Middle East and particularly around our Palestinian presence. It is important to us that we operate with openness and so want to share some background to our Palestinian business and some of the things that we are proud of since we started our operations there in 1998.
Today, Coca-Cola employs 400 associates across three Palestinian bottling plants in Ramallah, Jericho and Tulkarem and seven distribution centers, and our business supports a further 4,000 Palestinian households through retail and across our supply-chain. We are proud to be the country’s third largest employer and fifth largest investor.
We know that investment needs to be a continuous cycle for communities and our business to thrive together. In December 2013, we announced our plans to increase our Palestinian investment and will open a new bottling plant in Gaza in 2015 which represents a $20m investment and will create 120 direct jobs while supporting a further 1,200 indirect jobs throughout our value chain..
We are also proud to have been involved in dozens of community initiatives over the last 16 years. These include an after-school football program, in collaboration with PACES, which offers 10,000 Palestinian students through the school year with football coaching, life-skills training and a health and nutrition curriculum. We are equally proud to have given access to computer labs for the first time for 20,000 Palestinian school students in rural villages through the “Lana Al Ghad” school.com project. These are just two of many examples of initiatives underway.
There is a direct relationship between healthy and successful communities and healthy and successful business, and we believe that we can play a role in enabling the economic and social well-being of Palestinian communities through our presence there. We continue building, continue investing and continue serving Palestinian communities. In 1998 we made a meaningful commitment to our employees and consumers there. And that is something that isn’t going to change.