James Quincey, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company signs the LEAD Network CEO Pledge

From left to right: Frans Muller, CEO Ahold Delhaize; Julie Hamilton, former Senior Vice President & Global Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer of The Coca-Cola Company; James Quincey, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company; Sharon Jeske, Executive Director LEAD Network and Mick Broekhof, Co-founder LEAD Network

Sponsor spotlight Interview


James Quincey

James Quincey

Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company

Damian Gammell

Damian Gammell

CEO, Coca-Cola European Partners

Can you tell us a bit about your organisation and your role?
James: I’m the chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. We operate in almost every country and territory in the world, and we sell more than 500 brands. While we’re best-known for sparkling soft drinks, including the Coca-Cola brand, we’ve greatly diversified our portfolio over the last number of years. That’s why we call ourselves a total beverage company. We compete in a terrific industry with strong long-term growth potential around the world. One of the great benefits of our business model is the partnership we have with our bottling partners.

Damian: I’m the CEO of Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP). We are the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottler, selling and distributing the world’s most loved drinks to 300 million consumers across 13 countries in Western Europe. I’m ultimately responsible for delivering long-term and sustainable growth for the business and its shareholders. I’m focused on ensuring we’re delivering great service for customers, and an environment where employees can grow and develop. Our success is driven by our culture and the passion and commitment of our employees. Most of all, I want to make sure CCEP helps build a better future, for people and the planet.

Why is diversity, and specifically the advancement of women, so important to your organisation?
Damian: Fostering a diverse and gender-balanced workplace brings so many benefits for our business and our people. Building a greater diversity of ideas, thinking and experiences across the organisation creates a more inclusive place to work and drives innovation. We also know that more gender-balanced teams perform better, leading to better business results. Promoting diversity and empowering women is therefore a huge priority for our business, and we have a robust people strategy in place to ensure we’re always pushing for progress.

James: At Coca-Cola, we believe that diversity is crucial to business performance and our long-term sustainability. For example, research shows that companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry. We need to have a comprehensive understanding of the diversity of the world in which we operate and of the people who buy our products. We must employ people who reflect the communities we live in, the customers we serve and the consumers who enjoy our beverages. We place a high priority on ensuring that our workplace is both diverse and inclusive. That means gender equality ranks as one of our key priorities.

Which diversity initiatives do you have in your organisation?
James: It starts at the very top in how we choose people for our board, which now has five women among 13 directors. Our goal is to have equal representation at management levels across The Coca-Cola Company. To help us achieve this, we have a Gender Strategy that is based on four key initiatives led by our Global Women’s Leadership Council and our Global Diversity and Inclusion function. This includes commitments to increase women’s access to opportunities to achieve a 50/50 gender split across every level of leadership; highlighting stories that showcase female talent and inspire a new generation of leaders; and providing new experiences and promoting bias-awareness to foster an inclusive culture and engage men on diversity.

We’ve made progress, although there is much more to do. Our senior leadership team is now about one-third women. In 2018, we named three more women as business unit presidents around the world and we’re committed to taking a leadership role on gender diversity beyond our own company. Earlier this year, I signed on to the New York Stock Exchange Board Advisory Council, which focuses on making board leadership more inclusive.

Damian: The most successful businesses are those that reflect the communities and customers they serve. Across CCEP, we have a number of employee networks, which provide supportive spaces and raise awareness of diversity of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and disability.

Specially relating to gender diversity, we have a target of 33% of women on our board by 2020. This commitment is reflected in the business more broadly – by 2025, 40% of management positions at CCEP are to be held by women. We’re building our female leadership pipeline through Women in Leadership, a series of training and mentoring programmes supporting the professional development of our female employees at different stages of their careers. We’ve also made changes to our hiring process, including requesting more gender balanced candidate shortlists from our recruiters, using diverse interviewing panels, and ensuring our job adverts use inclusive language. 

What role does LEAD Network play in reaching your organisation’s diversity goals?
James: By signing the LEAD Network’s CEO pledge, we’re committing to accelerate gender parity and inclusion in the wider retail and consumer goods industry. This will benefit our industry and our business, as it means we’ll be able to attract candidates from a more diverse pool of talent, including more senior women, supporting our goals to increase female representation at the top.

Damian: We know that we could always be doing more to promote diversity and inclusion across our business. The LEAD Network provides a fantastic platform for us to share our actions on diversity with other industry leaders and increase cross-industry learnings. This collaboration will help us to find new ways of building a pipeline of diverse talent and achieve gender parity at all levels across the business.

What would you like your employees to take away from the LEAD Network?
: We’d like our employees to sign-up and take part in the LEAD Network’s events to collaborate with others and gain the confidence, knowledge and skills to take on leadership positions within our business.

James: We want our employees to feel proud to work for a company that takes the issue of diversity and inclusion seriously. I’m committed to empowering women in our organization and providing equal opportunities for everyone. Our involvement in the LEAD Network is a demonstrable way of showing this commitment.