We have seen great change in the three years since The Coca-Cola Company reentered Myanmar after more than 60 years. We inaugurated our first bottling plant, completed renovations at another plant and began selling locally produced Coca-Cola. Myanmar also continues to transition at a fast rate and, in November 2015, the people of Myanmar will go to the polls for what is considered the first open general election in 25 years.  

As part of our decision to reenter Myanmar, we completed an extensive diligence process which started as early as 2009. Guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, our due diligence included commercial, legal and environmental aspects and a thorough review of human and workplace rights to assess the nature of actual and potential adverse human rights impacts related to future business operations. In late June, we published our third Responsible Investment Report, which focuses on mitigation efforts for those issues previously identified, as well as new challenges and engagement efforts. Earlier reports can be found here

One of the key focus areas is advancing a culture of safety and compliance within the company. To that end, we continue to make updates to our vehicular fleet and develop training on fleet safety. In addition to delivering thousands of hours of training this year, the company also implemented a monthly "Safety Heroes" reward program, which identifies and rewards employees demonstrating good safety practices. These are important elements of our overall executive plan on workplace environment, health and safety to highlight risks and develop mitigation strategies. 

As part of our human and workplace rights assessments at the plants, we continue to make significant progress since the initial audit in 2012. Hours of work and overtime remain an important area for improvement. Ongoing efforts to limit overtime have included the creation of more than 200 new positions and a system to flag when employees are close to reaching overtime limits.

On the environmental side, progress continues. We conducted a baseline assessment of social and environmental impacts related to a renovation project at one plant and developed a tailored management plan. Source water protection plans were also completed at the end of 2014 and helped identify potential vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies. Due to renovation delays, the construction of the wastewater treatment plant at one facility remained ongoing at the time of our report submission this year. 

Brent Wilton
Brent Wilton

Engaging with stakeholders locally and at the international level has been important to identifying and addressing potential and actual issues. Prior to reentering Myanmar, we conducted comprehensive due diligence based on the information available at that time. In 2015, we completed additional due diligence after engaging with the NGO Global Witness, which brought to our attention information regarding a director of Coca-Cola Pinya Beverages Myanmar (CCPBM), Daw Shwe Cynn, who is also a shareholder of Pinya Manufacturing. The information from Global Witness showed that the CCPBM director is also a director and minority shareholder in a company which reportedly operates jade mines. While the jade mining industry is unrelated to our business, we encouraged and facilitated engagement between Daw Shwe Cynn and Global Witness. In this year’s report, we disclosed our Coca-Cola Pinya Beverages Myanmar directors and shareholders.

We recognize that progress will take time, and part of our long-term investment and commitment to Myanmar is to continue working with all stakeholders -- including government, business and civil society -- to encourage transparency and foster greater respect for human rights in Myanmar.

Sometimes referred to as the Golden Land, Myanmar is a culturally rich and dynamic country and as the economy continues to open up it poses unique opportunities and challenges for companies like Coca-Cola. The reentry into Myanmar has enabled the company to work in a cohesive manner to support a responsible, safe and vibrant local business that respects human rights. We will continue to apply high standards in our disclosure of activities in Myanmar, in accordance with the U.S. State Department Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements and in support of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. We look forward to another year of growing and learning in Myanmar. 

Brent Wilton is director of Global Workplace Rights at The Coca-Cola Company.