Coke invests $2.1 million in Brazil’s social programs after behest of Atlanta human rights advocates

By David Pendered

Coca-Cola Brazil and the Coca-Cola Foundation have agreed to invest $2.1 million in a variety of programs in Brazil that intend to expand opportunities for African-Brazilians.

Coke Brazil

Lisa M. Borders, (left) president of Coca-Cola Foundation, Joe Beasley, and Lazarus Cunha, Brazilian black movement activist and director of the Steve Biko Institute, listen to the president of Coca- Cola Brazil, Xiemar Zarazúa. Credit: prnewswire.com

The investment in Latin America’s largest economy was announced a week before Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is to co-host a delegation of IT companies from Brazil, on Jan. 21. The mayor is to lead a trade delegation to Brazil in April.

Coke’s investment stems from an effort started in Atlanta by veteran advocate Joe Beasley. In August, Beasley led a call for the company to extend Coke’s social responsibility practices to Afro-descendants in Brazil.

“We’re challenging Coca-Cola to be good corporate citizens and to provide a fair extension of their domestic and social responsibility practices for Afro-descendants,” Beasley said in August.

Following a series of meetings, Coke responded with the announcement of the $2.1 million investment during a Jan. 14 event in Rio de Janeiro.

“Brazil is one of the most racially mixed nations,” Lisa Borders, chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation, said in a statement. “Yet there are profound disparities in income, education and employment.

Coke's new bottler in Brazil serves a territory larger Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. Map credit: cia.gov

Coke’s new bottler in Brazil serves a territory larger Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. Map credit: cia.gov

“We believe that our funding will help change the economic fate of hundreds, if not thousands, of African-Brazilian students who seek a better education,” Borders said in a statement released Jan. 14, in Portuguese, with a dateline of Rio de Janeiro.

The programs are to involve more than 100,000 Afro-descendants in Brazil over the next three years, according to the statement. The money is focused on education, culture and community.

According to a translation provided by google.com:

  • “Among the initiatives is the creation of the Collective Connection, a new kind of collective Coca-Cola platform that will develop audiovisual skills and foster new forms of communication in low-income communities. Since 2009, the Coca- Cola Collective positively impacts on income generation and enhancement of self-esteem from technical training, community empowerment and market access.
  • “With over 550 units deployed in urban centers to the Amazon Rainforest in seven different modes, the Collective Coca -Cola uses the value chain of the company to generate large-scale social impacts to communities in need. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 68 percent of the population of these communities is comprised of blacks and browns.”

“With this new investment , we will expand our reach and partnerships in communities,” Xiemar Zarazúa, president of Coca – Cola Brazil, said in the statement. “This is a walk to make a difference in the proportion required for a country with the size and importance of Brazil.”

Beasley has said Coke was the first of several international companies advocates intend to ask to expand their social outreach and diversity programs.

“Hopefully, in the near future , other companies will be inspired to get involved in supporting programs benefiting African descent in the country ,” Beasley said in the statement.

Brazil is in the global spotlight in advance of the FIFA World Cup this summer and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Brazil also faces national and state elections in October. Anger that last June took the form of the largest street protests in a generation seems to have quieted, but the Economist magazine reported this month that support for President Dilma Rousseff, of the Workers’ Party, remains hard to gauge. Public concerns center on corruption, poor public services and rising living costs, the magazine reported.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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