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.

This summer, I traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica to join the Public Affairs and Communications team at The Coca-Cola Company. San Jose is home to the company’s Latin Center Business Unit, which oversees markets in Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Through this internship, I had the privilege to work in several projects aimed at improving the well-being of communities in these regions and to experience first-hand how private sector efforts can contribute to global human development.   

My primary assignment involved supporting the realization of Coca-Cola’s commitment to implement physical activity programs in every country where it does business. This commitment is noteworthy due to its voluntary nature, yet widely ambitious scope, which intends to reach the 200-plus countries that the company serves, including those without an actual physical presence by the company or its bottlers. Currently, Coca-Cola supports over 330 programs in 112 markets across the world. My assignment involved developing a plan to implement physical activity programs in ten additional countries in the Caribbean.

As preparation for my work, I attended the launch of Costa-Rica’s flagship program, Time to Move. This program aims to achieve 60 minutes of physical activity at schools by training teachers in techniques to introduce exercise into their classrooms and to increase the levels of activity achieved during physical education classes. The highlight of this inaugural event consisted of a training session for the 100 teachers that attended. Before the event concluded, teachers took part in designing improved physical education lessons and other activities to make academic lessons more physically active. From this experience, I was able to gain an appreciation of the program components that make up an effective physical activity program, as well as the logistical requirements for a successful launch. 

Time to Move
Teachers completing the Time to Move training session in Costa Rica

In order to design an implementation plan for the Caribbean, it was first necessary to identify and recommend an implementing partner organization dedicated to the promotion of physically active lifestyles. Following the selection of a suitable nonprofit organization, I worked closely with their management to determine: the program activities to be carried out, staffing requirements, logistics to deliver the program in each country, the process for aligning the program with the local context, and mechanisms to ensure program sustainability. The resulting plan outlined a roadmap for introducing the programs in early 2016, reaching hundreds of classrooms in the first year.

This experience has taught me important lessons about the role of business in development. First, it is clear to me that partnerships involving organizations with complementary capabilities are critical for delivering effective programs. In the case of Time to Move, Coca-Cola partnered with the University of South Carolina to develop the technical aspects of the training, thus creating a rigorous research-based program. Second, due to their extensive and global reach, multinational companies are very well placed to deliver projects with positive social impact at large scale. Finally, my experience with Coca-Cola has shown me that projects must meet a set of rigorous criteria to be implemented, demonstrating that the company has a commitment not only to funding projects but also to achieving tangible results. For these reasons, I am confident in the social value that can be created when companies commit themselves to development.