The Last Mile: How Coca-Cola Became a Medical Supplies Distributor

Companies involved in CSR sometimes struggle to find the best way to help solve critical social and environmental issues. Does the silver bullet lie in philanthropy, volunteerism or cause marketing? Although those are all viable options, sometimes the answer is within their own operations, in the form of distribution systems, marketing expertise and business skills.

 

Four years ago, Coca-Cola Company asked a very important question: If we can get a bottle of Coca-Cola to the most remote parts of the world, why can't we do the same for crucial medical supplies? This was the impetus for Project Last Mile, now being expanded with a $21 million cash injection. The program, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, harnesses Coca-Cola's best-in-class logistic, supply chain, distribution and marketing abilities to get medical supplies to some of the most inaccessible areas of Africa. The public-private partnership has already increased the availability of medicines in medical clinics by 20 to 30 percent in areas served, and the program expansion will allow for medical distribution in a total of 10 African countries over the next five years. Africa represents a key market for Coca-Cola, and its chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent describes the program as a symbiotic relationship: "We know our business can only be as strong as the communities we serve."

Solving some of the world's most complex social and environmental issues doesn't necessarily mean recreating the wheel. Oftentimes, companies' existing assets and know-how can be the most powerful solution. Companies that can take what they're best at – whether it's marketing, distribution or manufacturing – and repurpose it to solve a pressing need can create efficient and powerful results.

What companies have you seen that are harnessing business assets to solve social or environmental issues? Let us know on Twitter using #ConeCSR.

 

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