Social & Politics

Reaching Out and Doubling Business


Imagine the population of a city the size of Munich, multiply it by five, now think of those five Million people as women. Imagine all these women are spread across the globe, in many different countries, and you have to reach out to them. This gives you a rough idea of what the Coca Cola initative 5by20 is trying to do.

If Coca Cola fullfils the pledge its chairman made in 2010, the company will have improved the livelihoods of five million women entrepreneurs by 2020. What sounds like an ambitious, philanthropic mission is business for the Coca Cola Company. All women that benefit from the 5by20 inititative are in some way connected to Coca Cola’s value chain. The global, omnipresent brand has local branches in more than two hundred countries, which often depend on small scale entrepreneurs. Ranging from micro distributors, recyclers to artisans and fruit farmers, the local Coca Cola plants are ramified systems built on (wo)man power.

The 5by20 intiative foucses on small scale businesses, and aims to empower women economically by training them in business skills, providing financial services and assets and through building a peer and mentoring network. The focus on women entrepreneurs stems from Coca Cola’s conviction that women are catalysts for social and therefore economic progress. This committment to the empowerment of women is based on studies showing that women are more likely to reinvest their income on food, education and healthcare for their children and families.

To date the inititative has launched programs in 12 countries and may have reached as many as 300,000 women. A key to the success of 5by20 are the local partner organisations that Coca Cola works with. In China they partnered with the Women’s Development Foundation to provide 500,000 women entrepreneurs with online business skill training, and financial services to start their businesses. In Haiti Coca Cola works with the Hope Initiative to recruit and train women mango farmers to develop a sustainable mango juice industry in the country. The aim is to involve approximately 25,000 women. In Brazil 5by20 is rooted in the recycling and collecting sector. Artisans and collectors who recycle waste material are part of the Coca Cola value chain and receive support to form collectives and make their small scale businesses profitable.

Brazil’s example shows that, besides working closely with local partner organisations the intiative focuses on place-specific programs. Every country that 5by20 operates in, has its unique circumstances which are used to maximise economic progress for the women involved. The development of each program is monitored by the Coca Cola Company, and more specifically overseen and led by Charlotte Oades. The DLDw13 speaker is Global Director for Women’s Economic Empowerment at the Coca Cola Company. She coordinates and communicates the ambitious idea behind 5by20. Charlotte Oades Charlotte’s comittment to women’s empowerment is also refelcted in her founding role of the Women’s Leadership Council at Coca Cola. But what makes her a good fit for the job goes beyond that comittment. She has a background in marketing as well as corporate management and has been with the Coca Cola company for many years. As president of Coca Cola Great Britain she has driven a business focus on sustainability, and more recently she led the sustainability agenda for the whole of Coca Cola’s European business branch.

Moreover the combination of women’s empowerment and sustainable development, which also comes together in Charlotte’s work, is a long term strategy for Coca Cola. The company’s “2020 Vision” is to double the business, and women are seen as pillars of the communities where Coca Cola operates. Not least as they control USD 20 Trillion in spending worldwide, representing an economic impact larger than the U.S., China and India combined.

If the 5by20 inititative achieves its goal it will have touched the lives of many women and their families, but the initiative also shows how in this day and age women are being rediscovered as an economic force to be reckoned with.

Charlotte Oades will be sharing her vision on women’s empowerment and sustainable growth, and insights into her work at DLDw13.