After four days of hearing from some of the world's most inspiring entrepreneurs, brave leaders and change-makers, One Young World 2018 came to a close in The Hague. The event brought together more than 1,800 young leaders betwen the ages of 18 and 30 from more than 190 countries to discuss solutions to the world's most pressing issues.

Coca-Cola sent a delegation of 80 of its young talents from around to world to take a seat at the table, inspire fresh thinking and generate new ideas. On the agenda were issues that this generation will face as business leaders of tomorrow, from climate change to the refugee crisis, youth unemployment, poverty and more.

Delegates heard from the world's leading companies, NGOs and key influencers including Bob Geldof, musician and activist; Akon, singer and social entrepreneur; Christiana Figueres, architect of the Paris Agreement; and Mark Tewksbury, one of the few openly gay Olympic champions in the world.

Ambitious Plans for Plastic

To discuss the pressing issue of fighting plastic pollution with the business leaders of tomorrow, Ulrike Sapiro, senior Director, Water Stewardship & Sustainable Agriculture, The Coca-Cola Company, and Joe Franses, vice president, Sustainability, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) presented our plans to make a World Without Waste a reality.

"The world has a plastic waste problem," Sapiro said. "We have a responsibility to help solve it"

Sapiro and Franses shared some of the work Coca-Cola is doing in the areas of packaging design, distribution and engaging with stakeholders. They talked about the innovative Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, how the company uses the power of its brands to encourage recycling, and ambitious programs like Zero-Waste Cities in Greece, which is transforming its distribution to create a closed-loop recycling model.

They also stressed that Coca-Cola cannot solve this issue alone; businesses, governments and individuals all have a part to play. In a follow-up Q&A session, the two leaders spoke to delegates about our common ground for making a World Without Waste possible and the challenges the world faces along the way.

One Young World Delegates Ready to Make Their Mark on the World

Part of a Global Movement

Coke's delegates returned home full of enthusiasm, energy and new friendships. Here, some of them share how they plan to turn their new-found inspiration into meaningful impact.

Katerina SarakiIPM Manager and DME Controller, Greece, Cyprus and Malta: "Having spoken to delegates who attended last year's summit, I must admit my expectations were high. I can now safely say that this summit is one of my most memorable moments at Coke. I got the chance to connect with colleagues from other BUs as well as delegates from other international companies, young entrepreneurs and inspiring mentors."

Anastasia Rekshinskaya, FO Business Analyst, Russia: "I really enjoyed the outstanding speakers at the summit, all highly committed to making the world a better, safer, cleaner and brighter place. I was thrilled to listen to the impactful speech by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, who called on young people everywhere to do their best to improve their communities and companies."

Alkistis Houliarakis, Communications Manager, Western Europe: “Attending the OYW summit this year was an inspirational, thought-provoking and at times emotional experience for me. Together with my fellow 80 system colleagues we got to hear from leaders, young and old(er), about their journeys of courage, determination and altruism, that led them to take action and tackle head-on some of the world’s most pressing issues. Not surprisingly, plastic and plastic pollution was a topic that came out throughout the conference, and this didn’t come without some searching questions from other delegates about our contribution as a company and whether we are doing enough. To me, and in terms of our World Without Waste strategy, this highlighted that we need to maintain our sharp focus on developing the right actions, partnerships and solutions for plastic waste, as well as effectively communicating the actions we are taking. And clearly, we need to continue working at this pace, across all levels of the business."

Brian Tomaschik, Global R&D, Scientist IV: “One Young World was the most impactful and transformative single event in my career. It connected me with others that I would never have met otherwise, but with whom my work is intertwined. Moving forward, we can now build on those new relationships. More importantly, OYW completely changed my views on leadership and how we all can make our Company and the world a better place. I left The Hague with ideas and passion, working the entire flight back to Atlanta.  If I were allowed to only share one thing with others, it would be this: Don’t wait for direction from a leader. Be the leader.”

Kate Kundrat, Social Marketing Manager, North America Social Center: “Attending OYW opened my eyes to the adversities our global consumers face daily. But it was incredibly inspiring to hear stories of my peers overcoming obstacles to create true positive change in their communities. It motivated me to think about how I could use my skills, resources and network to help. It was also empowering to see our company’s presence at the Summit and their openness to have a dialogue about sustainability. As an international company, I’m proud that our leadership team is actively working to make the world a better place.”

Marie Combe d’Alma, HR Partner, CPS France: "What a great leadership experience attending the One Young World summit with 80 associates from the whole Coca-Cola system! We knew the summit will be intense, but I didn't expect it to be so inspiring. Some of the topics discussed led to passionate debates among other delegates. The themes of One Young World: human rights, health, inclusion, education, environment and much more, resonate deeply with our own growth culture. Throughout the summit, I really enjoyed meeting people from other functions & BUs and understand better our whole organization. Now let's work together to make the world a better place."

Andrea Neyra, Peru/Bolivia KKAA Manager, Coca-Cola Perú: “I am very thankful with Coca-Cola for giving me the chance to be part of this incredible and life changing experience, not only did I had the honor of representing the SLBU business but also I had the chance to meet 80 incredible system colleagues, and now friends, from all over the world that shared that same vision: be an agent of change for our community and company.  I feel so lucky of participating in this summit and be inspired by so many remarkable young ambassadors and Nobel Laureates that remind you that it does not matter how young we are, if we have the conviction we can make the world a better place. I go back to my country full of motivation, drive and ideas to start putting words into action!”

Holly McCormick, TI&S Foodservice COE Project Engineer, CCNA: “The trip to OYW was amazing.  It was such an honor to be chosen to be among the young leaders of the world who are doing so much to change the world today to make a better future.  Hearing from CEOs of global companies, politicians from around the globe, and celebrities about the work they are using their status to achieve was incredible.  Even more touching and inspirational was hearing from the young leaders attending the conference right alongside me who were making huge impacts in their communities and countries to promote human rights and education, for instance.  Their stories of hardships and struggles both with issues present here in the States and in other areas of the world and then how they pushed through to solve an issue or make a difference, small or large, was so impactful on me and inspirational to hear.  This is a trip I will not forget – from the inspirational heart-wrenching stories to meeting and befriending other Coca-Cola delegates from around the globe. It was incredible.”

Yoeri Verbaan, Junior Stability Specialist, R&D, EMEA: “Attending the One Young world was an amazing experience in every way. It was great to meet 80 young Coca-Cola colleagues from every corner of the world, with all a different expertise, to share stories what they do for the company and to spend a great time together. On stage there was a inspiring mix of companies telling which actions they take to make the world a better place and fascinating young people with their personal experience, stories and ideas. Where most companies avoided to talk about subjects they are blamed for (e.g. Shell did not talk about their pollution), I am proud that our company did. Open for discussion how together we can make a World Without Waste.”

Chris Goss, Corporate, Technical Writer & Content Manager, Global Product Integrity: “As young leaders we are very much engaged with the global community and the effect that international trends have on our business. It’s just so amazing to see how passionate our generation is about making the world a better place. I believe it’s one of those intangible assets that the company can really take advantage of.”

Ginger Hamilton, Customer Agreement Team, Financial Services Manager II, CCNA: “The biggest realization I had was how strong and powerful one person’s voice can be. Listening to the stories of other millennials who dreamed big and fearlessly set out to make their dreams become reality inspired me to never underestimate the power of my voice.”

Wendy Zhang, Product Development Scientist, Global Category Development, Global R&D Innovation: “I was very honored and humbled to be part of the Coca-Cola delegation at One Young World 2018 Summit. It was indeed an eye-opening and inspiring experience. The topics and themes discussed as well as the amazing stories from young delegates around the world helped me to realize how each of us can take the lead to influence people around us to make positive changes and make the world a better place. I’m also very proud to be representing our company, not only because of the strong brands we have built, but also the social responsibilities and initiatives we have taken to contribute back to society, such as the WWW initiative, Coca-Cola foundation, disaster relief, etc. It tremendously motivates me to be a better ambassador for our company. Last but not least, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to build a network and make friends with colleagues from around the world and people from other companies and organizations.”

Adam LaHaie, Senior Manager, Planning – Kollective, CCNA: One Young World was truly a transformative experience. A rare opportunity for young leaders across the Coca-Cola system and across the world to come together to learn, grow, ideate, collaborate and connect in an environment unlike any conference I’ve attended. Two things are clear-First, our company must continue to accelerate the investment in and, more importantly, the empowerment of our future leaders. Second, the prioritization of our People and our Planet will be key determinants in the success of our company with our next generation of consumers. While the number of young leaders gathered at OYW, countries represented, speeches delivered and so on can all be quantified, it is the currently unquantifiable impact of dialogues shared, ideas sparked, growth as leaders and paradigm shifting knowledge gained that I am most excited to see return to our system to help fuel our future growth.

Bruno Lorences, Performance Management & Planning Analyst, GB&I, WEBU: “Has been a great opportunity to think out of the box – being inspired by One Young World Counsellors’ approach to global issues, getting to know key concerns among people with completely different backgrounds and broadening my international network by meeting colleagues from all over the world. I am coming back home with new friends and excited about making a positive contribution in my community.”

Tuuli Turunen, Franchise Marketing, Finland, WEBU: “Two weeks ago my life changed. I became a one young world ambassador. It was truly an amazing experience in the Hague, Netherlands. During the summit we learned a lot of new things regarding topics like sustainability, poverty alleviation, peace and politics.  Now our KO system delegates are part of 10 000 people community with one shared vision "to make the world a better place." After the summit we are full of energy and inspiration to take these ideas to our business and to our communities. We are committed to make a change and we know we are not too young to lead and The Company is not too old to learn.”

Joao Victor Galhego, Strategic Initiatives Specialist, Brazil: “Without a doubt I can say that the One Young World Summit was one of most impactful and inspiring events I’ve ever attended. Four intense days with close to 2,000 people from different countries, beliefs and backgrounds all united by one common thread, one common dream: making this world a better place. We came across with some remarkable examples of how each and everyone of us are empowered to be leaders of change no matter the circumstances.  I've much to thank The Coca-Cola Company for providing me with this opportunity and I believe the best way to do it is by continuously helping and challenging ourselves to achieve our goals while also building together a better world.  The pathway for this world is clearly outlined by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, all we need to is act. For that and much more, you can count me in!  If not me, who?! If not now, when?!"

Ighor Melo, Shopper Marketing, Brazil: "It was a fantastic experience but more than that it was a wake up call for both me as a person and as part of The Coca-Cola Company. I'm really proud to be part of a company that understands its place in the international scenario and presents itself to the new challenges ahead with a so open-minded approach. For us, as future leaders, we need to be ready to do our part by acting now and influencing current leaders to align our business to social needs more intrinsically than ever. Getting ready for industry 5.0 and thus, a step ahead of CSR."

Dinh Huy Nguyen, Regional Trade Marketing Manager, Vietnam: “Dare to take challenges and change my world!”

Phila Dlamini, Process Quality Chemist, Swaziland, CPS: "The OYW summit has been the best place to get a glimpse of the leaders of the future. There's hope. Companies and countries alike, can rest assured that this generation has the leaders we have been yearning for. Coca Cola, in particular, can be proud of this current crop of young people. Another 100 years is secured."