Coca-Cola’s Director of Public Affairs On Building A Highly Effective CSR Program In Vietnam
Ms. Le Tu Cam Ly, Director of Communication, Public Affairs and Sustainability at Coca-Cola South East Asia. | Source: Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola was among the first few multinationals to return to Vietnam on the heels of Đổi Mới reform policies launched in 1986. Since then, the country has undergone profound social, economical, and environmental changes that Coca-Cola has successfully adapted to. Since re-entering the country, the corporation has created more than 2,300 jobs and contributes an average of VND 3,500 billion to Vietnam’s national GDP annually.
In addition to helping sustain Vietnam’s economic growth, Coca-Cola has been actively involved in community outreach working alongside NGOs and other strategic partners to implement programs that focus on Water, Women, Waste Management, and Well-being.
Prioritizing the issues that communities find most pressing, Coca-Cola provides support where it’s most needed. A recent donation of VND 8 billion to doctors, nurses and front-line staff went directly to the communities most affected by the COVID pandemic.
To learn more about Coca-Cola’s CSR program and how businesses can be more socially responsible, Vietcetera turns to Ms. Le Tu Cam Ly, Director of Communication, Public Affairs and Sustainability at Coca-Cola South East Asia.
What criteria does Coca-Cola consider when deciding which issues to allocate resources to?
Coca-Cola’s sustainable development programs focus on four main issues: Water, Women, Waste Management, and Well-being. Therefore, the lion’s share of our CSR budget, which stood at VND 86 billion in 2017 and 2018, is directed towards these causes. And although we are flexible and able to quickly adapt to the changing times and circumstances, in the foreseeable future Coca-Cola will remain focused on tackling these four challenges.
What value does Coca-Cola CSR programs bring to the community and why are these initiatives important to the corporation?
Coca-Cola has always aimed to refresh the world and make the difference. In other words, our overarching mission is to become the world’s most beloved beverage brand and to be known as a sustainable corporation that contributes positively to the future health of the world.
We recognize that our platform comes with the great responsibility of spreading awareness and helping local businesses and communities through sharing our expertise. With that responsibility in mind, we have never stopped striving to become a more reliable partner for the communities we serve and operate in.
Specifically, our CSR programs serve to demonstrate Coca-Cola’s commitment to meeting the needs of the bigger community. They are also a reminder to ourselves that we must continuously invest, innovate, and evolve in order to keep introducing favorable changes to the local community.
A youngster participating in an environmental debate competition held by Greenhub and Coca-Cola. | Source: Coca-Cola.
What are some of the driving factors behind a successful CSR campaign?
An effective social campaign or program should meet the following conditions: it must respond to the needs of the locals, be aligned with the company’s strategic priorities, be implemented based on public-private partnerships, and be oriented toward long-term development.
As part of our efforts to recognize the hardships the locals are experiencing and address their concerns, we often work with the central government, local authorities and social organizations through public-private partnerships. Practical solutions offered through such initiatives have been making meaningful contributions to society ever since Coca-Cola started doing business in Vietnam.
"Coca-Cola is one of the founding members "Vietnam Packaging Recycling Alliance - PRO Vietnam. After one year of operation, PRO Vietnam recently held a summation event to report its operating results after one year of establishment, and announce its operation orientation for 2020 and 2021. " | Source: Coca-Cola.
Thanks to our CSR programmes, 82,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries have gained access to clean tap and drinking water; 2,368 women have received training through knowledge-sharing programs and business counseling support; and many waste collection and recycling initiatives have been launched across the country.
These accomplishments show that Coca-Cola's CSR campaigns are most effective when implemented methodically, ticking our core priority boxes. Every CSR program we carry out is geared towards a common strategy, allowing us to see the big picture and set out foot on the right path, one that is cordial towards both our business and society.
Turning waste into resources through plastic bottles and scrap collection, creating high-quality recycled products that can be introduced to consumers. | Source: Coca-Cola.
What CSR programs are being implemented by Coca-Cola Vietnam at the moment?
Water stewardship and environmental conservation
Between 2015-2018, Coca-Cola Vietnam restored 31.8 billion liters of water to communities and the environment. EKOCENTER alone has provided more than 3 million liters of clean water to residents in 12 provinces nationwide.
Coca-Cola also invested VND 34.1 billion to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in Da Nang; invested VND 6.8 billion in conservation efforts at Tram Chim National Park in cooperation with WWF; worked with IUCN to implement the Monkey Cheek project to alleviate the severe drought and floods that are taking place in the Mekong Delta; invested VND 4.6 billion into sustainably improving the livelihoods of communities in flood-affected areas in the Mekong Delta; launched water stewardship projects for communities in Hanoi, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Ho Chi Minh City; provided Vietnamese schools with access to safe drinking water; and collaborated with CFC on numerous projects.
Lotus farming for ecotourism. | Source: Coca-Cola.
Financial empowerment for women
Through our association with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council (VWEC) and the Vietnam Women's Union, Coca-Cola organized e-learning courses and coached more than 1,300 female students in leadership and financial skills.
EKOCENTER, a community project initiated by Coca-Cola to promote public-private partnerships across the globe, has been running in Vietnam since 2015. In addition to providing free industry-standard facilities, the EKOCENTER for Community Support’s main objective is to assist local women's capacity development, giving them the opportunity to gain financial independence and self-autonomy. We also contribute endowments to the Center’s fund for entrepreneurship. By 2018, there were 12 EKOCENTERs in operation throughout the country.
Coca-Cola works with Greenhub to support entrepreneurial women with their recycling business as part of the "Plastic Action Network" initiative . | Source: Coca-Cola.
Public health and welfare advocacy
“Tet with Coca-Cola” program, which has been running since 2007, has brought thousands of gifts and joy to disadvantaged households across the country.
Since 2011, Coca-Cola has donated more than $ 245,000 to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) by the International Federation of Red Cross and Vietnam Red Cross Society; contributed to disaster relief assistance and supported more than 42,000 flood victims in the Mekong Delta region.
Waste and recycling management
In 2018, Coca-Cola launched the World Without Waste initiative based on the three strategic pillars of Design, Collect and Partner.
Three strategic pillars infographic. | Source: Coca-Cola.
Aiming at reducing the amount of plastic waste from packaging, Coca-Cola Vietnam has implemented a program to remove the plastic shrink film on Dasani bottled water products. Coca-Cola is also the first beverage company to use 100% recycled plastic (rPET) packaging in Vietnam for our Dasani bottled water.
Coca-Cola is one of the founding members of the Vietnam Packaging Recycling Alliance (PRO Vietnam) with a goal to share its purpose, vision and responsibilities in promoting the circulating economy in Vietnam through reducing, sorting, collecting and recycling waste.
Teaming up with the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), Unilever, and Dow, we launched the "Zero Waste to Nature" initiative.
We worked with UNESCO to map out an action plan to collect, reuse and recycle waste creatively through our “Fostering Creativity For Recycling Awareness” program
The Green Development Support Center (GreenHub) was one of our collaborators in establishing the "Plastic Action Network". We also partnered with the British Council to kickstart innovative educational programs on plastic waste management for high school students and people across the country.
In your experience, what needs to change for businesses to be more proactive in their CSR outreach?
Enterprises can only be proactive in CSR work when they consider CSR as the core of building a sustainable business. CSR missions need to be seen as a core function within the business ecosystem alongside marketing, finance, and engineering, not as an after-thought when the budget allows.
At Coca-Cola, we always prioritize our sustainability goals through the promotion of CSR. Even amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Coca-Cola has remained consistent with this direction by cutting its marketing budget to carry out community relief activities.
Repurposed plastic bottles from “Fostering Creativity for a World without Waste” by Coca-Cola in collaboration with the British Council. | Source: Coca-Cola.
What can you tell us about Coca Cola’s plans for the upcoming CSR initiatives?
For the foreseeable future, we will stay committed to pursuing a long-term business strategy to become a holistic beverage company. As for our product development, in response to our customers’ changing tastes, we will reduce sugar content in our beverages to create a healthier product catalogue.
We will also strengthen our commitment to perfecting the domestic value chain and continue to prioritize sustainable development goals around the four key elements of Water, Women, Waste Management, and Well-being.