Over the last two years, U.S. communities have been hit by three category 4 hurricanes— Harvey, Florence and Michael; two category 5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria; and the deadliest wildfires in California’s history. These disasters, along with others, have disrupted thousands of lives and ravaged hundreds of neighborhoods.

On Oct. 30, the Coca-Cola system hosted its inaugural Disaster Relief Forum, inviting 16 corporations, nonprofit organizations and bottlers with operations in Atlanta. The purpose of the strategic planning forum was to uncover how to better partner together — before, during and after disaster strikes — to make an even more meaningful impact in local communities.

Community engagement professionals from organizations with best-in-class disaster relief efforts collaborated on lessons learned, best practices and more – with the ultimate goal of building a coalition and establishing a cohesive disaster relief plan that maximizes our collective impact. 

“We know that we are only as strong as the communities we serve and our goal is to understand and respond to local needs,” says Yunice Emir, senior manager, corporate social responsibility, Coca-Cola North America. “This forum was the first step in identifying opportunities for us to work together to have a greater impact, especially in times of need.”

This event was the first step in identifying opportunities for the Coca-Cola system to work together, along with external partners, to have a greater impact in times of need. The group plans to reconvene and invite additional bottlers, corporations and nonprofit partners to establish a disaster relief coalition and build a joint disaster relief plan.

Alison Doerfler, senior vice president of capacity building for The Coca-Cola Company, believes this mission to be critical. “All disasters are local," she said. "And it is critical that the voice and the needs of impacted communities are complemented and amplified by national resources and responses.”

Disaster Relief Forum

The forum included representation from The American Red Cross, CARE, Carter’s, City of Atlanta, Cox, Cox Enterprises, Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta, Delta Air Lines, Inc., Georgia Power Foundation, Good360, Habitat for Humanity, InterContinental Hotels Group, Mercedes-Benz, Points of Light, State Farm, The Home Depot, The Home Depot Foundation and the United Parcel Service, Inc. Foundation.

Given their unique role to service local customers and directly engage with our local communities, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, the third-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the United States, led discussions on identifying additional opportunities to better serve and engage Coke employees, customers and community partners.

“Having the opportunity to share with and learn from best practices by other organizations was the greatest value of the forum and it was particularly helpful to us as a bottler with territory along the Gulf and East Coasts,” said Linda Sewell, corporate director of community relations, Coca-Cola UNITED.  “I commend The Coca-Cola Company for bringing this group together, so we can all learn how to be better prepared, as well as serve our associates and communities in more effective ways.”

Mike Ryan, VP of development, Southeast & Caribbean, American Red Cross, added, "The forum was a success. I believe this is just the start of great collaboration between community partners.”

The Coca-Cola Give website has been updated to encourage donations to the American Red Cross by scanning product codes from various Coca-Cola beverages. Please consider donating to the American Red Cross or other disaster relief organizations.