31 March 2011
On Tuesday I was in New York with partners from Oxfam America and the Coca-Cola Company, launching our joint report 'Exploring the Links between International Business and Poverty Reduction' (PDF 3.68Mb).
The report looks at the social and economic impact of our Coca-Cola bottling value chains in Zambia and El Salvador and has given us a valuable perspective that will help us better understand the health of the local communities in these two markets.
The report had some very positive points, finding that labour conditions, environmental protection and human rights were well respected at our bottling plants. It also recognised some of the leading programmes that our local businesses have in place such as HIV/Aids treatment and care at Zambian Breweries, and the employee savings cooperative in El Salvador, as well as the healthy community water dialogues in both markets.
Of course one of the key outputs of this work is the recommendations for further action. We were interested to learn, for example, of the mixed view of the role of trade unions amongst employees in our operations. We will continue to ensure that all employees have freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining - in line with Oxfam's recommendation. The global SABMiller workforce currently enjoys a 40% union membership, which increases to approximately 46% when looking at skilled and unskilled workforce only.
The under-representation of women is another area which we are playing close attention to. As a business committed to being the most admired company in the global beer industry, ensuring women are adequately represented at all levels of the organisation is a key element of meeting that goal. Women currently represent 20% of our global workforce and 25% of our executive and management staff. So we have a better representation of women at senior levels rather than on the shop floor, but clearly we can improve in both areas. We are increasingly seeing women within the business move into areas that were once considered male careers, such as brew masters and engineers. But we can do that much better and faster.
Coinciding with the launch of this report I was delighted to announce that our local subsidiary, Zambian Breweries Limited, is currently in discussions with the NGO ColaLife and other partners on a pilot project which will test the possibility of harnessing 'last mile' soft drinks distribution chains to supply an anti-diarrhoea kit to mothers and carers in under-served rural areas. Over the next few months our local colleagues will pilot the system to determine the potential for a broader roll-out in the future.
This report, and the relationships which we have built in its production, reinforces our belief that partnerships offer greater potential to create more value for our business and to make a greater difference in our markets than if we worked in isolation.