Earlier this year, my colleagues in the US published a list of the health and wellbeing partnerships, research and individuals funded there, dating back to 2010. In October, I committed to do the same and today we have published the details of what we have funded on the island of Ireland.
I believe this is the right thing to do. I also think it is important to understand why we have decided to share this information with anyone who wishes to see it.
Several years ago, Coca-Cola made a public commitment to play a role in addressing the challenge of obesity. Here in Ireland, our strategy has two elements. Firstly to help people reduce the sugar and calories they consume from our drinks and make informed choices, and secondly to support people in leading more active lifestyles.
We’ve reformulated drinks, put colour-coded nutrition labelling on all of our packs and spent more on marketing our no sugar drinks. This work continues.
We have also funded partnerships and worked with expert third parties to improve our understanding of the role our drinks play in people’s diets and the benefits of physical activity. I acknowledge that some people have questioned whether this work is appropriate and sufficiently open.
That’s why today we are publishing a list of the partnerships we fund on the island of Ireland, dating back to 2010. This is the start of a process to share this information globally and the information published will be updated annually.
The company has also begun a review of the global protocols we will follow when making future funding decisions. These will be designed to ensure the projects we fund are relevant and credible. I want this information to be available to anyone who wishes to see it, which is why we are posting it on online today.
The total amount of funding we have provided on the island of Ireland since 2010 is €1,521,566.00
Most of the funding on the island of Ireland goes to our partnership programmes with charities, public sector and for-profit organisations. These are local community projects designed to have the most positive impact possible in the communities in which they run:
The Coca-Cola Thank You Fund – through this grant awarding initiative we have donated €625k to non-profit organisations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. A total of 43 organisations have been supported since the programme’s launch.
Coca-Cola Zero Bikes – We are proud to support five bikes schemes across the island of Ireland - in Galway, Limerick, Cork, Dublin and Belfast – through a partnership with Coca-Cola Zero. In Dublin there are now more than 2,000 Coca-Cola Zero bikes and 250 docking stations and more than 10 million journeys have been completed.
Sport for LIFE – This is a University of Ulster-developed programme which has received a $450k grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation and delivered in Munster, Connacht and Leinster. 4,000 students in 200 schools in socially disadvantaged areas are benefitting from the initiative which is a collaboration between academics, community groups and industry.
Most of the scientific research we conduct globally is designed to inform our product innovation - for example the development of a reformulated drink using a new ingredient or containing less sugar and calories. People expect food and drink companies to conduct R&D and therefore this work is not included in what we have published today.
However, we also want to understand better the role our drinks play in people’s diets and consumer behaviour, including physical activity. This is not because we think physical activity is the only, or even the most effective way to address obesity. We know diet and nutrition is important, which is why we have invested significantly in reformulating many of our drinks to reduce their sugar and calorie content.
We don’t fund any science or research programmes in Ireland or Northern Ireland, we do however work with leaders in their field to ensure we get insights based on the best scientific evidence available. In Ireland we have facilitated discussions with professional organisations and facilitated debates on key issues such as hydration, reformulation and the role of carbohydrates in food. Any experts who speak on our behalf share their own work and opinions, which are objective and independent, and we expect them to disclose funding sources in all publications.
I hope this provides some clarity regarding the experts and organisations we work with.
We are committed to maintaining this level of transparency and will do so by updating this list every year and sharing on this website in early 2016 the new global protocols we are developing to guide this work.
If you have any questions about this then please do get in touch.
Jon Woods is General Manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland