Evidence of meeting #39 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was business.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • John Guarino  President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada
  • James Haga  Director of Advocacy, Engineers Without Borders Canada

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Here in Canada.

4:05 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

Here in Canada we are not growing our normal water business.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

No? It's not growing. Okay. If you have those numbers, that would be terrific.

I'm impressed with the recent program you're launching and will have growing in the next month, Project Nurture. I ask you that because some might say, with all due respect to Coke, you're in the business of selling beverages, and if we need to have people who are going to be supporting people to be more self-sustaining in their development of agriculture, or for that matter trying to get access to water, is Coca-Cola the best way to go? You can understand why someone might have that point of view. My argument is not to suggest that it's not good to have people doing good things, it's just a matter of who does that work.

Allow me to just ask you this question in terms of the project you're focusing on right now. You're doing two things, and you admit it in your presentation. On the one hand you're trying to get more people involved at a local level. On the other hand, you quite rightly are saying that for the purposes of your company you're trying to sell beverages, and that your goal is also to be able to sell the beverage locally. Is that correct?

4:05 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

Yes, we are trying to sell our beverages locally.

I think on water, in the grand scheme of things, we're actually a very small user of total water. We are working, as I said, with USAID, the WWF, and others in programs on water usage. As I said, we are committed to giving back as much water as we use in the bottling of our beverages by 2020, in other words, getting toward a water neutral state so that we're giving back exactly what we use in the bottling of our beverages.

We continue to make good progress against that goal. We report on that goal every year, on where we stand on it. We're doing that through a variety of efficiencies in terms of how we actually run our bottling operations and how we can save water there. The other is looking at other ways we can give back in terms of rainwater harvesting, supporting various initiatives such as watersheds and what not.

It's a little bit of both. It's about our being more efficient, but also our partnering with people to reduce. We have committed to getting to a level by 2020 of giving back exactly the amount we use in bottling our beverages. We think you can do both.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

May I ask a policy question that's related to what you just said? You have concerns about the effects, particularly in Africa, around climate change, then. Are you concerned about water? I'm assuming that you're concerned about—

4:05 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

No. Water is a natural resource, and in some areas there are water scarcity issues, in parts of Africa as well. We've done many studies on that, working with independent firms on water scarcity and how we fit into that. It is certainly part of our planning, where we go in and put in plants to source the water in water-stressed areas. It is all part of everything we look at. We don't rely on our figures; we rely on—

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

No, I was simply making the point that it's a concern, that access to water is one of the threats of climate change. I was just seeing if you'd concur with that.

4:05 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

Certainly I don't want to get into.... We are concerned about having access to enough water and that we are able to replenish what we use. There are very different areas where there are water problems.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thanks, Mr. Dewar.

We're going to move over to the government side. Ms. Brown, seven minutes, please.

June 4th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much to our guests for being here.

Mr. Guarino, I'm going to address my comments to you because we have you for such a short time. First of all, I want to say that in achieving the millennium development goals, Canada is the only country in the world that has paid up on its financial commitments to the various global funds. Regardless of the percentage that people talk about, it's the actual money in hand that really makes the difference.

Contrary to what my opposition may think, I have run a business, and I know there is nothing wrong with self-interest in business. You need to have a return on your investments in order to grow your business and to continue investing in some of these other good funds you are putting money into.

I'm very interested in this part of your presentation where you talked about the fact that you are enabling the empowerment of five million women entrepreneurs worldwide across our value chain. I wonder if you could expand on that.

You know that our whole discussion here has been about the involvement of the private sector in helping us to achieve our development goals. There are those of us who see private sector involvement and growth in emerging economies as the key to seeing these countries become enabled economies.

I wonder if you could expand on exactly what's happening with women. How are they growing these micro-businesses? What impact is that having on the general economy?

4:10 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

Thank you for the question.

First of all, given that much of our business is in the developing markets, we feel that the role of women in our business has not been represented properly. Many people think of us as a heavy business—lifting, bottling, cases—but the truth is that we have such a diverse business and we require so many different things that we weren't always able, particularly in booming economies, to get all the resources we needed.

We felt that the economic impact of women's entrepreneurship was not being recognized, so that's why we instituted this program, 5 BY 20. This is a global program. We go country by country and have objectives for each country. It's a separate department reporting into the senior leadership of the company in Atlanta, where we monitor these.

And it's everything.... It's micro-distribution, which would be a small village where we would appoint somebody who is responsible for delivering Coke and our products to the stores there. We would deliver to them and then they would distribute around to that community, store by store and restaurant by restaurant. We've set targets on that. We would want women to own that business, for example. Then they go out and hire the salespeople and the delivery people who can handle the product and do the deliveries every day.

It has been extremely successful. Needless to say, women have been wonderful managers of this business—across Africa. We know that in many places in Africa in developing markets sometimes maybe they don't get a fair shot at economic empowerment, at owning a business, or at running a business, and they're pretty darn good at it. Also, it is linked not just directly to our business, but to looking at our suppliers as well, and to saying that when we go out and work with advertising agencies and suppliers—whether of raw materials for the production plant or just office supply—we have targets of how many women entrepreneurs we're going to be working with.

That's how we plan on getting to five million women by 2020. It's a lofty goal. We feel we're on track. As you said, we're a business. It's a win-win as far as we're concerned. We're getting the benefit of having all of these economically empowered women supporting our business globally.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

I've been in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and several other African countries, and I've managed to get Coke in every one of those countries, so you're obviously being successful.

I guess my question is, are you beginning to see the effects of these women managing their own businesses? Are you beginning to see the effects on their own families and how that is working out in their communities?

4:10 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

Yes. I mean, I couldn't point to scientific data, but we know they're becoming a pillar. Their husbands will still most likely have a job and be gone during the day, but running their own business allows them to be flexible in terms of what they're doing, both in terms of generating income and in terms of raising a family at the same time. Undoubtedly it provides for a more stable household, one that is more economically empowered, is making a little more money, and is able to invest back in the community, so it becomes a bit of a virtuous circle.

So I wouldn't have specific facts to say that these women lead to this, but there's no doubt that it's making stronger and healthier economic and family communities where we're doing this, particularly in Africa.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

How do you go about finding these women? Do you advertise in some mechanism, or do you have a contact in the village you're looking to work in? How broad a distribution area would they have? What is their potential? I guess that's what it comes down to. But how do you go about finding these people to employ?

4:10 p.m.

President, Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada

John Guarino

We will advertise for them locally, and that can be very different things in different countries, but we are a very local business. As you said, you can find us pretty much everywhere, so we know what's going on in the areas. We will actively search out. We will say that this is what we're looking for and these are the requirements of what we're looking for.

In terms of what is expected, we don't have big long contracts, but we say here are the ten things that need to be done if you want to run this business. There's a certain amount of investment. We help arrange financing so that they can have start-up funds to do this. We would evaluate them against this performance, but essentially it's about going in, town by town, to find them.

The areas that these micro-distributors serve are quite limited. They might be just within a mile, because much of the time all of the product would be delivered by handcart, or by bicycles or something else, as opposed to.... It's not that big trucks are going in and delivering this product. That's why we're able to get so many. We give them a defined geographic area to service and we protect that area for them.