Coca-Cola highlighted the efforts of three employees and two companies in advancing diversity across its supply chain during its Partners in the Promise celebration and awards ceremony April 26. The event, held at Coke's Atlanta headquarters, is one of the many ways Coca-Cola reinforces its commitment to inclusion and cultural collaboration.

About 80 percent of Coca-Cola's future growth is expected to come from multi-cultural communities, making supplier diversity not just a desirable company value but a critical business component. It was a key strategy in the company's recent refranchising of its bottling system, completed last fall, through which Coca-Cola sold its bottling operations to new or existing local partners and finalized diverse ownership for a third of its bottling system. The company's senior leadership has also reaffirmed its commitment to spend $1 billion with diverse partners—in 2017, such spending increased 3.7% from the previous year to $675 million.

Jim Dinkins, President, Coca-Cola North America
Jim Dinkins, President, Coca-Cola North America

“Supplier diversity is a competitive advantage, as many of our large customers require it, siad Terrez Thompson, vice president of global supplier diversity. "It drives innovation and it has a significant economic impact in the communities we serve."

Terrez Thompson, Vice President, Global Supplier Diversity, The Coca-Cola Company
Terrez Thompson, Vice President, Global Supplier Diversity, The Coca-Cola Company

At the event, emceed by local Atlanta news anchor Fred Blankenship, senior leadership including Quinton Martin, Brandi Shortt and Mark Westfall at Coca-Cola discussed the ways supplier diversity is embedded across the company, including its 5by20 initiative to support women entrepreneurs globally, and its partnerships. One partner, the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, works to advance opportunities for minority-owned businesses and led a series of networking activities following the Partners in the Promise awards. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, a partner in the 5x20 initiative, provides programming, events and networking opportunities for women-owned businesses.

Brandi Shortt and Mark Westfall
Brandi Shortt and Mark Westfll

The work continues. "We've done a lot to improve our diversity, but today we have an even greater opportunity to look more like the customers and consumers we serve," said Jim Dinkins, senior vice president of Coca-Cola and president of Coca-Cola North America (CCNA). "We need the three-dimensional perspective that comes with diverse talent to unleash the boundary-less opportunities needed in the new CCNA."

Thompson emphasized both diversity and inclusion as core values for Coca-Cola. "Inclusion is also one of our company’s new growth behaviors" she said, "because we know diversity cannot thrive without inclusive behaviors that embrace different backgrounds, ideas and skills. “


Betty Arnold
Betty Arnold accepts her award as Champion of the Year at the 2018 Partners in the Promise award ceremony.

The Procurement Associate of the Year award, aimed at an employee who goes above and beyond normal job requirements to promote the use of diverse suppliers, went to CCNA Logistics Procurement Manager Betty Arnold, for her role in encouraging suppliers and helping them develop the tools to grow within the Coca-Cola network. She helped Tribe Express, a transportation supplier, achieve 28 percent growth in their load volume and a projected 45 percent growth in first-quarter earnings year over year.

Champion of the Year awards go to associates who advocate for diverse suppliers within a department or division and can demonstrate a significant increase in annual spending with such suppliers. Peter McGree and April Bessonny both received this award. McGree, a senior manager for procurement who pushed the business case for why diverse suppliers should be included in procurement opportunities wherever and whenever possible. In his short tenure, McGree has had a big impact, learning all he can about the supplier diversity while enthusiastically embracing his role.

Bessonny has long been involved in supplier diversity, both directly and indirectly, as an external relations director in Coca-Coca Bottling Sales & Service. A quintessential bottler advocate, Bessonny has encouraged Coke's supplier diversity team to consider the bottlers' perspective when making decisions that affect them, not just seeing things from the Coca-Cola corporate point of view.

The Diverse Supplier of the Year award, which honors a diverse company that is highly effective and committed to overall excellence, went to Tribe Transportation, a Native American woman-owned business that has made a big impact in a brief period of time. Based in Georgia, this national carrier specializing in temperature-controlled transportation has become a critical part of Coca-Cola's Simply Orange Juice transportation network from Florida. They did $81,000 in business with CCNA in 2016, and their outstanding service catapulted them to $12.4 million in 2017, on track for $20 million this year.

Prime Supplier of the Year award goes to a major supplier that consistently demonstrates commitment to supplier diversity by engaging diverse suppliers on Coca-Cola projects and/or contracts. Plastipak Packaging stood out as a clear winner for this award, with a commitment to identify and engage minority suppliers that comes from the very top of the organization, CEO William Young. A global leader in consumer product packaging for over 50 years, Plastipak credits its minority business enterprise (MBE) partnerships with a number of its innovations, such as the Extrusion PET resin used in the production of its large-size handled containers. Along with its commitment to Coca-Cola, Plastipak has pledged a strong MBE supplier program to other key customers.