Racial Equity Audit
Racial Equity Audit
2022 - The Coca-Cola Company
RESOLVED, shareholders request the Company conduct and publish a third-party audit (within a reasonable time, at a reasonable cost, and excluding confidential/proprietary information) to review its corporate policies, practices, products, and services, above and beyond legal and regulatory matters; to assess the impact of the Company's policies, practices, products and services on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and Latinx/a/o/e communities. Input from stakeholders, including civil rights organizations, employees, and customers, should be considered in determining the specific matters to be assessed; and the audit should include recommendations for improving business activities that impact racial equity. A report on the audit, prepared at reasonable cost and omitting confidential/proprietary information, should be published on the Company’s website.
WHEREAS: The global racial justice movement, coupled with the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color, have amplified calls for institutions to advance racial equity. Racial inequity, including racist and discriminatory policies and practices, may present significant legal, financial, and reputational business risks. Research has found that the most racially diverse and inclusive companies are more likely to outperform less diverse peers in terms of profitability.
While The Coca-Cola Company (“Coca-Cola”) has recently announced a Racial Equity Action Plan,2 there are concerns around workforce commitments to racial equity that have reversed previously positive trends. In 2010, 15% of Coca-Cola’s executive workforce was Black, slipping to nearly half (8%) by 2020.3 The Company’s Black salaried staff also slipped by 5% in the same timeframe.3
Additionally, Coca-Cola’s Racial Equity Action Plan does not address potential racial equity issues in its products and services, and some of Coca-Cola’s advertising and marketing practices have faced backlash from stakeholders. The Company’s most recent make-your-own label promotion prevented users from creating “Black Lives Matter” labels, while allowing the printing of “White Lives Matter” labels.4 Cristiano Ronaldo’s public snub of Coca-Cola at a Euro 2020 press conference resulted in financial and reputational risks for investors, demonstrating the power of diverse stakeholders.5
A 2018 study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that Coca-Cola has increased its sugary drink advertising spending by 81% since 2013, disproportionately targeting Latinx/a/o/e and Black communities.6 It found that Black children and teens were exposed to twice as many advertisements than White youth.7 Increasing rates of diet-related diseases, disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx/a/o/e teens, have intensified calls for healthier products and more robust responsible marketing practices.8
In response to George Floyd’s murder, the CEO of Coca-Cola said: “as a company that believes diversity and inclusion are among our greatest strengths, we must put our resources and energy toward helping end the cycle of systemic racism.” A racial equity audit is an important step in establishing a transparent system of accountability. Coca-Cola should take this opportunity to re-envision a responsible business model that supports the development of accountable, resilient, and inclusive economies.