At the heart of Coca-Cola’s 108 years of operations in the Philippines is the guiding principle that it stands together with Filipinos—and this commitment is especially emphasized in times of great crisis.
A recent testament to this is the Company’s immediate earmarking of P150 million to assist in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coca-Cola has also continued to serve its customers throughout the imposition of quarantine, via the provision of essential hydration needs.
This principle is aligned with the Company’s resolve to care for its people—the real secret formula of Coca-Cola. This rings truer as June marks the National Safety Month where safety in and outside the workplace and beyond has become more critical than ever before.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Coca-Cola has been enforcing measures protecting the total well-being of its nearly 10,000 employees nationwide. It raised its already strict safety and sanitation guidelines. It introduced new healthcare initiatives as a direct response to the pandemic—including programs that look after the mental health and continuous development of its associates, whether they shelter at home or serve at the industry’s frontlines.
Life at Coke
During a crisis fraught with challenges, rampant uncertainty, and pervasive anxiety, the mental well-being of individuals should be safeguarded. Thus, it is incumbent upon the Company to ensure that it could support, in any way possible, its 10,000 employees across the country.
It was thus very timely that Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc.—the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the country—recently launched its new employee experience program called “Life at Coke.”
The program is anchored on its people-first philosophy—that the Company’s every action is inspired and motivated by uplifting the lives of its employees, with a focus on personal development, healthy interpersonal relationships, and an open dialogue between management and the associates.
“Companies are responsible for helping their employees thrive in these most challenging times,” says Gareth McGeown, President and CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. “The world that we live in has changed, and it continues to do so at a fast pace. This requires companies like us to be agile and adaptive—but, more importantly and especially, to demonstrate empathy. We must support our employees to make sure that they can adapt to these changes in healthy, accessible ways. And that is exactly what we aim to achieve with Life at Coke.”
A series of responsive programs were initiated under the Life at Coke banner, including online mindfulness resources with available helplines and online support groups; webinars on mental health in the workplace and how to healthily cope; employee-led virtual fitness sessions.
Life at Coke is also targeting continuous personal and professional development, leveraging on digital and online platforms such as LinkedIn Learning. Organizational development and opportunities to grow within the Company have also been sustained and intensified, where people are commended and rewarded with promotions, equivalent merit increases, for outstanding performance.
“One of the most important things we’ve learned is that we cannot stop at just providing physical PPEs (personal protective equipment),” McGeown says. “We need to look after our associates’ emotional PPE as well.”
Caring for a 10,000-strong organization
CCBPI has been ensuring that all of its associates remain updated on business continuity plans and operational policies, as well as job security. Through the continuous dissemination of personal emails and messages to personnel since before the beginning of community quarantine, McGeown applied the belief that it is the responsibility of the Company to properly reach out to and keep in touch with its associates, solicit feedback, while constantly providing reassurance and support.
McGeown says, “As the leader of an organization of 10,000 people, it is my responsibility to make sure that all our associates know what we are doing – the health of the business, safety initiatives, and people initiatives– so they do not need to worry about their jobs. They can be assured that they can continue providing for their families.”
CCBPI has set aside almost P2 billion for its employee assistance fund, ensuring that associates were paid during the quarantine, with those part of the skeleton workforce on-site and on the field provided with additional allowances. Heightened employee support has also been enacted, like the deferment of loan payments to cooperatives and the advanced pay-out of the 13th-month pay along with full HMO coverage if any associates or dependents contracted COVID-19.
Transitioning to the next normal
As the country transitions into the new normal with the easing of community quarantine guidelines, the Company will enact a gradual and conscientious phasing of employees returning to workplaces and sites. This involves, among others, reconfigured workspaces that are compliant with healthy and safety protocols.
“We’ve been reimagining and reframing what the future will look like as we continue to do our best to protect jobs and retool and upskill people to operate in different ways,” McGeown says. “Our plan is to ease into the ‘new normal,’ and to learn and recalibrate as we go along. We are not in a rush to do it; we want to do it right.”
As the Philippines remains within a developing situation as we continue to battle this pandemic, Coca-Cola remains firm in its commitment to continue to invest, create local jobs, and be a good partner to the government. “Our commitment to the Philippines remains stronger than ever,” McGeown says. “We’ve been in the Philippines for over 100 years, rest assured that we aim to be here for another 100 years more.”
McGeown adds, “If there’s anything we’ve learned in our long history in the country, it’s that resilience and the ability to bounce back is one of the admirable traits of the Filipino. We are proud to stand by them now and look forward to brighter days ahead.”
About Coca-Cola in the Philippines
Coca-Cola has been refreshing Filipinos and making a difference in the Philippines for 108 years. The Philippines was Coca-Cola’s first market in Asia to begin local bottling operations. Today, the Coca-Cola system in the Philippines has evolved into a total beverage company, offering 19 brands in its beverage portfolio and employing over 10,000 Filipinos in over 19 manufacturing facilities and more than 60 distribution centers nationwide.
As part of its long-standing commitment to the country, Coca-Cola continues to #GOBEYONDGOOD as a business by continuously supporting safe water access programs in over 200 communities, empowering over 200,000 women entrepreneurs through training and peer mentoring, and accelerating packaging collection and recycling under its global World Without Waste initiative.