Jackie Duff, the Strategic Program Director of The Coca-Cola Company's Women's Economic Empowerment Programs, was recently in Kathmandu to take stock of the Coke's social business initiatives in Nepal. She has been working with Coca-Cola for the past 10 years, focusing on environmental projects. Kuvera Chalise of Republica talked to Duff to know about the Coke's social business initiative and its programs in Nepal. Excerpts:
What is 5by20 program?
We focus on three areas -- women, water and wellbeing. My area of responsibility of women and communities is through our 5by20 program. The 5by20 program is basically our commitment to enable the economic empowerment of five million women by 2020.
5by20 is going very well. We focused on 5by20 across the Coca-Cola value chain that means from the farmers we work with, who produce fruits for our juices, all the way through to other end of spectrum where we work with artisans of recycle materials where we do beverage packaging, to produce and sell artisan products. The biggest part of what we do is working with retailers and distributors. We educate them. Education focuses around business goals and sometimes personal skills. Sometimes, perhaps, if the women are not literate, we also adapt the training that we provide so that it could be delivered through pictures. So, they can still benefit from the trainings that we are providing to other women. We have, so far, succeeded to enable the economic empowerment of 1.2 million women around the world.
What about Nepal?
This is my first visit to Nepal. Our focus in Nepal is on water and women. This visit is focused on two initiatives; one is retailer program, where we are supporting the vision 2020 to work with 10,000 retailers. When I say retailers, we mean very small businesses, the backbone of society -- the basic provision stores. These women have never received basic education in many cases. They are learning the basics of how to run a business, cash flow, merchandizing, stocking, safety etc. Some of these issues help them grow their business. We provide that level of education. We develop this training through Coca-Cola University. We have 13 different modules to help the women learn about running the business. We have already spoken with many of the women who have participated in the training. They have given us a lot of positive feedback on how they have been benefitted from the training. And their situation is improving. The second reason of my visit is to visit recycling project in Kathmandu to understand how we can take the learning and make it more impactful, and also look at how we can learn from the good work that they have been doing here and increase the level of recycling.
How do you manage the fund for such social initiatives?
The recycling project here is funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation. We have two different parts of our business. One is our foundation which is focused on community initiatives and disaster reliefs. For example during last year's earthquake, it supported people through the water provisions. The retailer program is funded by the operational side of our business like the bottling side of our business and also some of our commercial marketing operations.
How many women in Nepal have benefitted from your program so far? Is there any future plan for Nepal?
Some 10,000 women will be benefited from our retailer program. We are still working on our projections for the recycling program. We are just focusing on Kathmandu right now.
But we recognize that Nepal is an important country for business. The recycling community in Kathmandu is helping environment. We certainly have a plan of expansion.
Is there any plan to establish recycling plant in Nepal?
We have been doing recycling job in India so far. But this is a starting point for a pilot project. We have already found a partner to recycle in Nepal. We know we cannot continue to go to India for recycling. So, to make it a sustainable project, we need to find a solution in Nepal. We are a beverage company and have to concentrate on key business but we have influence in the value chain. So, we will continue to explore these partnerships and build capability in the country where we are operating. We have realized the need to look for infrastructure in Nepal.
What is the difference between the social business and business as such?
In Coca-Cola we believe it as one of the same. Our belief is that as community grows, our business will also grow. So the more we support the community through our social business initiatives, we know that our business will also benefit. It is really important to us that we continue social initiatives. When we pilot a program, we take those learning and continue to scale those programs.
Is your social initiatives helping brand Coca-Cola or the brand Coca-Cola is helping you to do such social initiatives?
In my opinion, it is mutually beneficial. Actually, the reason we focus on Coca-Cola value chain is because if none of us are in our role in 10 years time, Coca-Cola will still be here in the market. For me a picture of success is when I come back to Nepal in a year or two, I see that how these modules have expanded.