As a marketing student, Mark Mayhew examined how companies balance demands for growth with the duty to run sustainable brands. Are they co­mpeting needs or, rather, complementary business goals?

Mark Mayhew
Mark Mayhew was the fifth and final participant in the Brad Clemes intern program.

Days after graduating in June with a degree from Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, Mayhew started a summer internship at The Coca-Cola Company, and began to tackle that question. Working with Coke's global juice team, he pored through nutritional data, options for recyclable packaging, and the political hurdles that accompany a program to deliver high-nutrient juice drinks to children in developing countries.

Mayhew was the fifth and final participant in a program honoring the legacy of Brad Clemes, a Coca-Cola executive who perished in the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447. Clemes was known by employees at each of his international assignments for supporting young talent, embracing diversity and promoting sustainability. 

Clemes and Mayhew share the same alma mater. Through the internship, Mayhew says he learned first-hand how companies traverse a highly competitive landscape while changing attitudes and behaviors around sustainability.

“It’s not just setting up recycling bins,” he says. Rather, “How do we make this a process so consumer recycling behaviors actually change over the long term? You learn of the complexity of it. It’s always been an area that intrigued me.”

Supporting Project Thrive

Mayhew's main assignment during his two-month internship was Project Thrive, a Coca-Cola global initiative to combat vitamin and mineral deficiencies among school-age children by providing nutrient-rich, ready-to-drink beverages. The program already has been introduced in Colombia, Ghana, India, Malaysia and the Philippines, and includes free nutrition education and related services for families. Erika Gomez, global juice director, supervised Mayhew's work this summer. 

Mayhew says local personnel in each of the locations use data to measure the impact of the program. Project Thrive is creating both health and educational benefits, according to data from the project locations.

“Are they attending class more? Are they more active?” he says of interviews with teachers and parents about the children in the program. “The parents as well as the teachers have seen an improvement. So I think it’s great to see that the project is successful, that it is being accepted by the children as well as the communities.”

Brad Clemes
The Coca-Cola internship celebrates the legacy of Brad Clemes.

Sustainability has also played a central role in the project. In Colombia, for example, drink cartons from Tetra Pak, one of Coke's global packaging suppliers, are being recycled and repurposed as desks and chairs, among other items.

“Once you give them the juice products, how do we make sure they’re recycled?” Mayhew says. “It’s seeing the needs of the country and how you can implement sustainability.” 

Mayhew is working on an analysis of the projects so it can be extended to new countries. Each country has specific requirements and realities – he says this has allowed him to gain insight into the complexity of some of Coke's sustainability projects that require coordination among governments, nonprofit organizations and Coca-Cola employees to bring the programs to fruition. 

“There have been challenges in every country,” he says. “What our company does is see how we can apply the learnings on to a global scale.”

Iain McLaughlin, senior vice president for global juice and still brands, says Mayhew shone in the rigorous selection process for the internship, demonstrating business acumen and traits that reflect Clemes' legacy and accomplishments at Coke. In his application essay, he focused on how Coca-Cola could make better use of water and packaging.

“We selected Mark from a large group of applicants as he best personified the values and character that successfully guided Brad in his own career,” McLaughlin said. "From the first time we spoke to Mark in his interview, we saw a smart candidate, with an excellent attitude and energy, and a great interest in sustainability.”

Family Connection

Mayhew was able to meet Anne Clemes, Brad's widow, during a recent trip she made to Atlanta. “Anne described the places that Brad and his family had gone,” he says. “It put everything into perspective.”

Clemes, reached by telephone in London where she and her two sons reside, recalls three major principles that shaped her late husband's work: “His belief in developing talent, a unique ability to embrace cultural diversity and this big sense of ‘team.’”

For example, while in Turkey, she says, Brad supported his personal assistant with a wish to return to college to complete a degree. “He was very supportive of her going back to school. He cut down on her hours and gave her days off; he really felt like she deserved this opportunity,” Anne recalls. The employee later was promoted to assume a management position at Coke.

Turkey was one of several international assignments for the Clemes family, who lived in South Africa, Austria, Bahrain, Turkey, England and Belgium during Brad’s career. In his final role, Clemes was global manager Coke's bottled water business.

“He had confidence and a strong belief that he along with his team and the company could create a business scenario where this product could be offered in a sustainable way. He was very passionate about the packaging issues, water replacement issues,” Anne says.

“Brad developed wonderful working relationships with colleagues,” she adds. “We feel very lucky as a family that we got to have the opportunities that we did have, to live around the world, to meet and to become true friends with people from all different cultures.”

Clemes' sons Andrew, 26, and Nathan, 24, expressed their gratitude that Coke has taken the internship program very seriously. “Each intern has had valuable, practical experiences which will no doubt help them in their future employment. This is a truly unique, one-of-a-kind internship," they said via email.

Mayhew wrapped up his internship in early September and hopes to seek full-time work in corporate brand management.