Coca-Cola is the most popular and biggest-selling soft drink in history, as well as one of the best-known brands in the world. It’s also now one of the sponsors of the National Women’s Business Conference hosted by NAWBO—showing it’s a big business with a heart for women. We recently spoke with one of Coca-Cola’s executives, Vice President of Community Relations Lori George Billingsley, about the company’s support of women, efforts to give back and more. Lori oversees community giving, engagement and volunteerism for Coca-Cola. Moreover, she has 30 years of public relations experience in developing and implementing breakthrough programs that meet organizational goals, target audience needs and produce results.
Q: What makes NAWBO and Coca-Cola a great fit as partners?
Lori: We know that when you economically empower women to succeed—its benefits go beyond the woman alone. The impact reverberates within her family, network and her entire community. Partnering with NAWBO—the unified voice of over 9 million women-owned businesses in the United States—is a way that we can join in to help women grow in power and influence around the world.
Q: What makes you proud as a woman to work for Coca-Cola?
Lori: Coca-Cola is a company that has core business values similar to my own—leadership, collaboration, accountability and integrity. Also, I am proud of the fact that we continue to work to ensure our leadership reflects the critical diversity of the communities where we operate.
Q: Does Coca-Cola have any programs specifically for growing/mentoring its women leaders or creating better diversity within its leadership, and if so, can you tell us about those?
Lori: Through the Coca-Cola University, we have curated a number of different internal leadership programs and business resource groups such as the Global Women in Leadership program, Multicultural EDGE and Women’s LINC. Through these programs, we give our associates access to senior leadership, business mentors and real-time leadership practicums created to help them reach their potential.
Q: What are some of the key ways that Coca-Cola is giving back to communities across North America?
Lori: We believe our success depends on the sustainability of the communities in which we operate—and for us, that means having a positive impact and actively strengthening communities. We are guided by our strategic giving priorities in education, empowerment and environment. For example, right now at this moment, more than 2,000 students are in college with support from Coca-Cola. And just last week, we announced that we are the first Fortune 500 Company to have successfully replenished 100 percent of the water we use back to the community.
Q: Does any of this community work involve women, women entrepreneurs or small business owners, and if so, how?
Lori: Absolutely! Within our empowerment priority, we have curated and supported programs that help women build financial acumen, provide business training and more. Globally, we have the 5by20 initiative—to economically empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020. In concert with this company commitment, our Supplier Diversity team launched the Supplier Training & Empowerment Program (STEP).
Q: The theme of NAWBO’s National Women’s Business Conference this year is “Leading the Way.” How do you hope to lead the way for women in general through your role at Coca-Cola?
Lori: By example. In all aspects of my life and career, I highly value integrity and good character. I believe in treating others with respect and bringing everyone to the table to solve problems—regardless of their views.
Q: Is there a woman leader who has inspired you as you have worked to further your career; tell us about her?
Lori: One of my mentors, Debi Miller. She was my first manager when I worked for the city of Washington, D.C. Over the years, she has always graciously provided counsel, feedback and connections for every role I’ve had since then. She is a pioneer within the public relations industry and an amazing woman.
Q: What would you want NAWBO members to know about Coca-Cola that they might not already be aware of?
Lori: NAWBO members can stay updated our on 5by20 progress as well as purchase 5by20 global artisan products, by visiting www.coca-colacompany.com/5by20.
A Few Fun Facts About One of the America’s Most Iconic Brands
- In 1886, Coca-Cola was invented by Atlanta-based pharmacist John S. Pemberton.
- In 1985, Coca-Cola became the first soft drink to go to space.
- Today, Coca-Cola is sold in more than 200 countries (the only countries that don’t sell Coca-Cola products are Cuba and North Korea).
- On average, more than 10,000 soft drinks from Coca-Cola are consumed every second of every day.
- Coca-Cola has a product portfolio of more than 3,500 beverages (and 500 brands), including soft drinks, energy drinks and soy-based drinks.