Last Wednesday, we went to Coca-Cola Belgium. There, we had the chance to speak with someone working in the areas of governmental affairs and public relations in the Europe Group, getting a taste of what it was like for one of the largest non-alcoholic drink producers in Europe to interact with the public sphere.
As a company with over 600 products in 38 European markets, Coca-Cola’s Europe Group has to deal with a large number of areas and issues spanning its vast supply chain. It is in dialogue with governmental institutions at both the national and EU levels, for issues that range across agriculture, production, packaging, transportation, refrigeration, sales, consumption, and disposal. In particular, we touched on many issues, including the environment and health.
The environment is affected at every step of Coca-Cola’s supply chain, but what was surprising to me was that refrigeration was a such a contributing factor in the company’s impact on the environment––I thought something like transportation would be more important. It turns out that the company produces a lot of their products are produced locally, transportation isn’t as much a significant factor. On the other hand, Coca-Cola branded refrigerators used by retailers are owned by the company, making refrigeration factor into their environmental footprint, and in fact make up over 80% of that.
Being a very visible part of the issue of health in society, Coca-Cola ultimately has to do something about the issue, even if the company’s products don’t make up a significant amount of the average person’s consumption. Thus, the company has provided a number of solutions such as making it mandatory for retailers to offer all Coca-Cola product categories and sizes so that the consumer could choose adequately, committing to a no-targeted-marketing policy towards children, sponsoring and supporting sports, and even creating in Europe (alongside other industry partners) their own nutrition facts label that was eventually adopted by government legislation.
Ultimately, two things in particular stood out to me from the discussion. The speaker heavily emphasised the need for the company to provide solutions to problems and their goal of complying with laws and regulations before they come into effect, since public trust in Coca-Cola was crucial to the continued success of the company and that it was much easier to adjust before a laws and regulations than to waste time fighting. These two key points underscored the company’s successes in the European Union and elsewhere, and really showed us just how much the speaker understood working with the public sphere. Overall, I highly enjoyed our visit to Coca-Cola Belgium and felt like I gained a lot of understanding into the company’s operations, and its relations with governments and publics, especially within Europe.
I found this day to be very interesting. Coca-Cola is a brand, and their reputation is very important aspect of their business. The speaker emphasized that it is up to the person to choose his or her drink. In the simplest sense this is true, but with the intense marketing for Coca-Cola soft drinks, it takes away from that choice. As someone who wants to pursue a career in marketing, I understood that finding the balance of promoting your product, making a profit and informing the public about the health/environmental issues can be very difficult!
Edward, wonderful post! I, too, found it surprising that refrigeration was the largest environmental impact for Coca-Cola. I had no idea that they produced their beverages locally, which I think is very neat. As well, I also found it interesting that they do not market to anyone below the age of 12. I find this incredible important, because even though soft drinks may be okay for you in appropriate quantities, children do not understand proportions. In addition, I also found it interesting that he clearly stated that the main objective of Coca-Cola is profit. Overall, they are a business and they want success and for people to buy their products. I guess people get sidetracked with all the other things they are involved in that they forget Coca-Cola’s ultimate goal.