The Coca-Cola Company is an internship partner of Georgetown University’s Global Human Development (GHD) program. Each summer, two Master’s candidates in the GHD program work in Coca-Cola’s offices around the world, getting firsthand experience in the areas of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. This special Unbottled blog series highlights their time with Coca-Cola.

A lot has been said about the private sector’s approach into the social arena. Many critics, still skeptical, argue that companies are only interested in increasing sales and profits. However, in recent years a trend towards finding a “sweet spot” between creating social and business value from private sector operations has been underway. Brought forward by Michael Porter and Mark R. Kramer, not to be mistaken with CSR or philanthropy, the Shared Value approach aims to encourage companies to create “profitable business strategies that deliver tangible social benefits”. Many leading companies are already successfully pursuing shared value strategies and the results have been positive.

This summer, I worked with Coca-Cola’s South Latin Business Unit and was able witness firsthand the benefits of going down this path. Based in Chile and Peru, I had the opportunity to travel and visit one of Rio de Janeiro’s very famous Favelas. There, I met an extraordinary group of young people who, through Coca-Cola Brazil’s COLETIVO initiative, are working towards building a more promising future for them and their families.

How does it work?

Through strong engagement with society, Coca-Cola has created a series of programs aimed at driving economic opportunity for disadvantaged populations across their value chain. By working in close relationship with communities and strategic partners, social problems become business priorities and a virtuous cycle is created to address those issues. The company works with the communities in identifying the more pressing social issues and come up with a series of business strategies to address them, generating social and business value. The complexity of the interventions require strong partnerships between businesses, government and civil society; a relationship known as the “Golden Triangle”.

Scaling up is now the biggest challenge. With COLETIVO’S success, Coca-Cola’s priority is to replicate the model in order to generate shared value initiatives in many other Latin American countries. Special interest is dedicated to women in the value chain in order to comply with Coca-Cola’s 5by20 commitment, launched in 2010, to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020. Their numbers are increasing and I am confident in Coca-Cola’s approach towards solving social problems, and look forward to hearing many more stories of women entrepreneurs like Soledad, a Chilean who through one of Coca-Cola’s projects in Chile has been able to start her own recycling business and now provides an extra income for her and her family.