In the U.S., we assembled a team of ethnically and functionally diverse men and women from across the company to develop our Racial Equity Action Plan. They set out to explore and understand past barriers, and then establish a new set of mandates for embedding this work into the business. They solicited feedback from employees, stakeholders, partners and customers, receiving hundreds of ideas.
On June 3 – in the wake of the George Floyd murder and in the throes of widespread civil unrest and a global pandemic – Chairman and CEO James Quincey hosted a virtual employee town hall to address the role The Coca‑Cola Company can play in helping end the cycle of systemic racism.
“Our pledge as a company is that we will do our part to listen, learn and act,” Quincey said during his emotional remarks. “Coca‑Cola is committed to making a difference in our communities and within our company by mobilizing our history of advancing civil rights and by rallying the strength of our employees, families and friends. Our company must play a visible and proactive role in creating the change that is desperately needed.”
Quincey invited his colleagues to share questions, suggestions and unfiltered feedback. Hundreds of ideas poured in. Jamal Booker, director, customer communications, North America Operating Unit, and Tanika Cabral, VP, foodservice and on-premise inside sales and new business, North America Operating Unit, were tapped to lead the agile team responsible for developing a robust Racial Equity Action Plan rooted in progression and permanence.
The team needed to be diverse, not only ethnically but also generationally and professionally. Booker and Cabral wanted a cross-section of perspectives to push bold thinking. A different approach was needed to drive different results.
Step one was a deep dive into the company’s diversity and inclusion journey. “We first had to understand why we hadn’t made more progress against prior commitments,” Booker said. “We realized that what has been missing is a focus on internal policies and practices. Because while it’s incredibly important to be advocates in our local communities, disrupting systemic racism and achieving true equity requires first taking a close look at ourselves.”
This research informed the team’s five workstreams: Equitable Policies and Business Practices; Teammate Communications and Dialogue; Teammate Enrichment; Community Advocacy; and Community Engagement. Two associates were assigned to lead each workstream, partnering closely with Talent & Development, Diversity & Inclusion and other critical functions. The team meets weekly with a steering committee of senior Coca‑Cola leaders to report progress and gather feedback, and the plan is supported from the top down.
“James (Quincey) and his leadership team are behind this 100 percent – and our employees are driving the work each day – which will promote accountability and embed this into the language of our organization,” said Lori George Billingsley, chief diversity and inclusion officer, The Coca‑Cola Company.
The plan is intentionally iterative; the work will evolve over the coming months and years.
“We cannot waste this opportunity,” Booker concluded. “Our employees expect Coca‑Cola to walk the talk and live our company's purpose to refresh the world and make a difference. Our goal is to drive the change that will make future Coca‑Cola employees – and the world – point back to 2020 as the year when we got it right.”