Jill Knoll began her career with Coca-Cola North America in 1997 as a Customer Communications Specialist for Industry & Consumer Affairs. In 2002, she was promoted to Team Manager responsible for managing a team who protect and enhance the integrity of the Coca-Cola trademark.

Jill’s passion for Coca-Cola and sustainability blended perfectly during her graduate program. The international residency provided the opportunity for graduate students, working professionals, partners, and faculty to build networks and gain international perspective from organizations working on sustainable development issues in some of the world’s most rapidly developing nations. Jill took the time to share her experience with us below.  Enjoy.

My journey began years ago. I’ve always had a great passion for the environment and conservation of our natural resources. I was working for the #1 trademark in the world and remember thinking how can I bring this together into the perfect package.  I knew Coca-Cola’s commitment to management practices and sustainability — which includes water, packaging, energy, health, and agriculture — was a perfect match for my passion.

China Residency

I decided to enroll in Virginia Tech’s Executive Master of Natural Resources program (XMNR) within the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability.  The program included a 10-day international residency in the Yunnan Province of China where we networked with global partners to explore and help develop multi-scale strategies for global sustainability and sustainable forms of development.  I knew Coca-Cola worked with partners, such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to help address challenges related to freshwater conservation in the Mekong River Basin, so it seemed to be the perfect situation.

Through team projects, fieldwork, leadership, and negotiation of complex issues, the XMNR program helped me gain a better understanding of how I could support the partnership, and identify new areas of collaboration for Coca-Cola.

My Learning

Our whirlwind China tour started in Shanghai with stops in Dali, Xizhou, Shangri-la, Wuxi, and back to Shanghai. Probably my proudest realization was - our trademark is huge; it’s influential. I was so proud to see Coca-Cola in the smallest villages of Xizhou to the largest cities of Shanghai. I spotted Coca-Cola in the craziest of places. A Dali University professor used a Coca-Cola bottle as his ashtray; another bottle was being used for incense ashes in one of the largest Buddhist temples in Shangri-la. I realize it’s not the best use for our packaging - but that’s not the point – it was there and being used.

My China Residency

I watched women use our umbrellas for shade as they sewed clothing and shoes for their family.

Coca-Cola brings communities and families together. It’s more than just a name. It’s a global common denominator that creates happiness and makes people smile. It’s real. I had the pleasure of witnessing our brand at this level, even in the smallest villages where poverty is overwhelming. We have the influence to bring people together for the common good.

What’s Next?

As proud as I was to see the impact of Coca-Cola, I walked away realizing the huge potential of future opportunities. The Company can’t do this alone; it takes all of us employees. There are still communities that need infrastructure, food, clean drinking water, and economic success. Through our brand ambassador program, all of us can add value – big or small – to these communities. Learn more about our partnerships and ways to contribute. Coca-Cola and WWF are helping to lead a global movement to conserve the planet’s natural resources, with a focus on fresh water.  Our partnership is making great progress with a bright future. Through these efforts to help solve environmental challenges, we’ve realized that to truly make a difference, collective action is required. No one business or industry can make as great of a difference without reaching out and working alongside of other organizations that we may not always think of as natural allies.

Jill Knoll

My experience in the XMNR program and touring Southern China helped me to realize Coca-Cola’s belief in the “golden triangle,” - partnerships between business, government and civil society. By combining our strengths, expertise, and networks, we are better positioned to address today’s global challenges.And it starts with us, the employees.  Ask yourself what you can do to become a better Coca-Cola ambassador.

Jill Knoll is Team Manager at The Coca-Cola Company and is responsible for managing a team who protect and enhance the integrity of the Coca-Cola trademark.