Prioritizing Sustainability for Our Business and World

Coca-Cola is recognized throughout the world. From bustling cities to the most remote outposts, at the biggest global events to the most intimate gatherings, consumers reach for our products time and again. This is the result of a 131-year track record of building trust in our brands and in our company.

Our leadership position as the world's largest beverage company, offering more than 500 brands to people in more than 200 countries, comes with great responsibility. We take seriously our reputation, our character, our actions and our role as a good corporate citizen. We aim to set a positive example for how to operate more sustainably as a global business. At Coca-Cola, sustainability is never reduced to a box to check. It is critical to our operations, and to our bottom line.

The Coca-Cola Company’s Board of Directors is elected by shareowners to oversee their interests in the long-term health of the Company’s business. The Public Issues and Diversity Review (PIDR) Committee, which I am honored to chair, helps the Board of Directors fulfill its responsibilities relating to diversity, sustainability, corporate social responsibility and public issues of significance.

As our Committee evaluates social, political and environmental trends, issues and concerns, we take the long view. Why? Because we know these complex and interconnected topics impact the Company’s performance, including the ability to create long-term value for our shareowners, as well as the environment and the general public. We also maintain a close check on the Company’s annual progress toward diversity and sustainability goals, our human and workplace rights policies and compliance in our system, supply chain and communities.

It is important to examine the Company’s progress holistically. Consider agriculture, which accounts for approximately half of what the Company spends on inputs to our products. Here we have an opportunity and responsibility to contribute to agricultural practices that are more sustainable worldwide. We spend billions in procurement. When we source, manufacture, distribute and operate sustainably, we create value across our entire chain, as evidenced in our commitment to spend $1 billion with diverse suppliers by 2020. This kind of commitment, when carried through, has the power to change lives and communities.

Our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion is a key part of our growth strategy.

To become a consumer-centric, total beverage company requires a shift. People with diverse perspectives, agility, and entrepreneurial mindsets are vital. Growth demands we unlock the power of our people. This includes our 11 Diversity Advisory Councils and Business Resource Groups.

In 2016 our Global Women's Leadership Council, which advises senior leaders on how to accelerate the movement of talented women into roles of increasing responsibility, sponsored a significant event. In a panel discussion, fellow female Directors, Helene D. Gayle, Maria E Lagomasino and I shared stories from our professional journeys.

Together, we encouraged our colleagues – men and women – to build self-awareness, take risks and build support systems for each other.

Prioritizing sustainability makes Coca-Cola a better business. It creates more value for shareowners, and everyone in our value chain. In this report, in addition to reporting on our sustainability progress over the last year, we attempt to make it clear why we prioritize what we do, how and where our sustainability priorities connect and intersect, and why each topic is important to our business.

While we don’t have all the answers, we always strive to improve and address challenges and partner on solutions wherever we can.

We’ve been fortunate to have had the leadership of Muhtar Kent, who embraced sustainability and helped us achieve great progress. And we have full confidence that James Quincey will continue our Company’s legacy of leading in sustainability.

Today’s world may display many sustainability challenges but with challenges come opportunities. How we assess and act to address and embody what is presented will determine our success.

Alexis M. Herman,
Chair, Public Issues and Diversity Review Committee
The Coca-Cola Company

Read a handwritten version of the letter from this year's report