When old shipping containers have reached the end of their usable lives, companies often scrap, recycle, or resell the old metal boxes. The Coca-Cola company and its foundation are taking a different approach by breathing new life into old shipping containers by upcycling them into EKOCENTERs.
Beginning in 2013, Coca-Cola partnered with the likes of IBM, the International Development Bank, NRG, Qualcomm, UPS and others to repurpose the 20-foot containers, fitting them with solar power, water purification systems and Wi-Fi capabilities. The main goals of this upcycle undertaking is to help foster sustainable livelihoods and empower women.
Coke and its partners initially piloted the EKOCENTER project in Heidelberg, South Africa. Coke, along with a few new partners, including Ericsson, Medshare, Pentair, Philips, Solarkiosk, and TIGO Rwanda, has announced the project’s expansion, recently opening a flagship EKOCENTER in Ruhunda, Rwanda.
The flagship center is solar powered, has Wi-Fi enabled internet services, mobile charging services, a small retail store, and provides residents with access to improved healthcare services and purified water. The Ruhunda EKOCENTER reportedly stands to benefit around 25,000 local residents, especially women—one of the main beneficiary populations of Coke’s philanthropy.
Last summer, the Coca-Cola Foundation announced that it had awarded over $2 million to women’s empowerment groups. Grantees included the Pact Institute in Myanmar for its Swan Yi II: Strengthening Abilities for Women’s Economic Empowerment program. The U.S.-based Metroplex Economic Development Corporation in support of its program, the Success Factor: the Fast Track to Owning Your Own Business; and the French-based Force Femmes for its Women in Business Academy.
Coca-Cola also operates a women’s economic empowerment program called 5by20, which along with powerful partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, MercyCorps, and U.N. Women, aims to empower some 5 million women around the world by the year 2020. Each of the women operating the more than 100 EKOCENTERs spread across seven countries receives training through the 5by20 program. The program isn’t limited to ECKOCENTER countries, as it currently operates in 60 countries around the world.
While women are a key beneficiary population for Coke’s corporate philanthropy and its giving through its foundation, the overall focus is on fostering the well-being of marginalized and vulnerable communities. Its Shaping a Better Future Grant Challenge is a good example here.
Shaping a Better Future is a “competition for acceleration funding,” and is offered to members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. The competition awards five, $10,000 grants to “hubs”—which are for the most part, comprised of young people—who are developing and implementing innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing global development and health challenges. Past awards have gone to support projects related to education, Nepal earthquake relief, and new hospital technologies to help save more lives in India.
In the same vein of promoting the overall well-being of people around the globe, the Coca-Cola Foundation recently awarded a $50,000 grant to Venture Garden, a Greek entrepreneurship education that receives ongoing support from the Hellenic Initiative. The grant speaks to Greece’s economic hardships and the hardships of its people in its effort to stimulate economic growth and employment through “reigniting and supporting the Greek entrepreneurial spirit.”
Philanthropically, Coca-Cola and its charitable arm fund a relatively wide variety of causes around the world. The foundation has been narrowing its giving focus over the past few years, zeroing in on women, water, and well-being. The latter of which—as clearly demonstrated by its latest grants—can take many different forms.