Editor's Note: This op-ed appeared originally on page A11 of the Aug. 20, 2015 edition of The Wall Street Journal, and is being republished with permission here.
At Coca-Cola, the way we have engaged the public health and scientific communities to tackle the global obesity epidemic that is plaguing our children, our families and our communities is not working.
Our company has been accused of shifting the debate to suggest that physical activity is the only solution to the obesity crisis. There also have been reports accusing us of deceiving the public about our support of scientific research.
We have read and reflected on the recent news stories and opinions, online conversations and questions from our own family and friends. The characterization of our company does not reflect our intent or our values.
I am disappointed that some actions we have taken to fund scientific research and health and well-being programs have served only to create more confusion and mistrust. I know our company can do a better job engaging both the public-health and scientific communities—and we will.
By supporting research and nonprofit organizations, we seek to foster more science-based knowledge to better inform the debate about how best to deal with the obesity epidemic. We have never attempted to hide that. However, in the future we will act with even more transparency as we refocus our investments and our efforts on well-being.
Committed to acting with integrity when serving our customers and our communities, Coca-Cola has always believed that a healthy diet and regular exercise are essential for a healthy lifestyle. As the largest beverage company in the world, we believe that we are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact.
Our business will continue to evolve and respond to the needs of society—from product innovation to responsible marketing to our sponsorships and partnerships. And we will expand on the good things we are already doing so people may enjoy Coca-Cola products that have the calories and ingredients that fit their lifestyle. We will also continue our work to provide more choices, in smaller pack sizes, in more communities—waters, lower-calorie and lower-sugar drinks, diet soda and zero-calorie drinks.
In addition, I have directed Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, to:
- Publish on our website a list of our efforts to reduce calories and market responsibly, along with a list of health and well-being partnerships and research activities we have funded in the past five years, which we will continue to update every six months.
- Charter and recruit an oversight committee of independent experts to advise and provide governance on company investments in academic research.
- Engage leading experts to explore future opportunities for our academic research investment and health and well-being initiatives.
- Sandy will lead this work in the United States and the best practices will be implemented internationally.
As we continue to learn, it is my hope that our critics will receive us with an open mind. At times we will agree and at times we will passionately disagree. The one thing we all have in common—we care.
We want to get focused on real change, and we have a great opportunity ahead of us. We are determined to get this right.
Muhtar Kent is chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company