Nov 162011
 
Authors: Colleen Canty

To a room of approximately 600 business casual-clad and Coca-Cola-sipping students, community members and dancing polar bear mascots, Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s Chief Executive Officer, spoke of every institution’s “binary choice” on campus Wednesday.

“We can be part of the problem or part of the solution,” Kent said during a speech in the Lory Student Center Main ballroom. “We can all do well to better listen to the needs of the world that may seem secondary to our personal endeavors.”

Kent’s visit comes in the wake of a 10-year deal between Coca-Cola and CSU in which the university will receive more than $5.2 million. The deal, which was finalized over summer, included a new Beverage Management Institute in the College of Business.

Although Kent acknowledged the “bright promise and bold prospects” of the contract with Coca-Cola, Kent’s speech centered around the company’s “2020 vision and road map” and general goals for a socially conscious enterprise.

The company’s vision for a “sustainable and socially responsible business” is summarized in a one-page document created when Kent officially took the title of CEO in 2008.

Kent and Coca-Cola plan to double business in the 10-year interval between 2010 and 2020, while remaining conscious of water stewardship, sustainable packaging, climate protection and work to create a sustainable community, according to Kent.

Results of implementing these ideas in practice would include a return of every liter of water the company uses in its production process and the removal of all waste in the life of a product’s package.

“Even for a company like Coca-Cola, these goals could be a little more realistic,” said Abigail Holmberg, sophomore member of the Dean’s Student Leadership Council for the College of Business. “But, I mean, it’s a cool idea if they can really do it.”

Among talk of the company’s international presence in socially conscious business practice, Kent spoke of Arctic Home, the company’s most recent project working to save their beloved polar bear mascot’s melting Arctic habitat, and encouragement to aspiring female business women.

“As a female in the business college, I do sometimes feel looked down upon,” Holmberg said. “It was great to see the CEO of Coca-Cola talk about empowering women in entrepreneurship.”

Talk of the university’s partnership with the company was comparatively minimal, but Kent expressed his appreciation for the school’s “mutual understanding and conversation” regarding shared values in sustainable business growth.

“We appreciate your passion, academic excellence and integrity,” he said. “Together we are going to do great things and make life here in Colorado better.”

While the precise details and technicalities of the relationship developing between the university and the internationally recognized company were not largely addressed, the audience still made out with a free drink and T-shirt, and John Hoxmeier, a dean in the College of Business, was “pleased.”

“People, the planet and profit are all considered in a truly successful business, and this is exactly consistent with our college’s vision,” Hoxmeier said. “We try to turn out business students who are socially conscious, and Kent’s message was in sync with the goal of the College of Business.”

Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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