DAVOS 2021: Coca-Cola CEO says US has 'long way to go' on corporate diversity

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - 2020/06/26: Coca-Cola bottles seen in a Carrefour supermarket in Marseille. James Quincey, the CEO of the global giant announced in a statement that the Coca-Cola firm had in turn stopped advertising on social networks for 30 days to protest against hatred and racism on social networks. (Photo by Denis Thaust/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Coca-Cola bottles seen in a Carrefour supermarket in Marseille. Photo: Denis Thaust/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Corporate America has “a long way to go” when it comes to diversity in leadership, the chief executive of Coca-Cola (KO) has said.

James Quincey said boardrooms and management teams across the Fortune 500 were still falling short when it came to representing the wider diversity of the US. He said just 14% of senior leaders came from diverse backgrounds, less than half the representation in the wider American population.

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Quincey said Coca-Cola was helping to address the issue through internal training and advancement programmes, as well as by setting standards for its suppliers.

“The one great thing that large companies like Coke can do is they can influence the ecosystem of smaller companies around them and help them realise the dream,” he said.

Coca-Cola President and CEO James Quincey attends a press conference with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president and China Mengniu Dairy CEO and Executive Director, as part of the 134th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the SwissTech Convention Centre in Lausanne, on June 24, 2019. - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, will elect in a final vote on June 24, 2019 the host city for the 2026 Winter Olympics. The two remaining host cities in the election process are Stockholm-Are, Sweden, and MilanCortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Coca-Cola President and CEO James Quincey. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Quincey highlighted Coke’s move last year to spend an extra $500m with black-owned businesses.

“In the end, it’s the large companies that can be the engine of the train that helps all the small companies move forward too,” he said.

Quincey made the comments during an appearance at the virtual Davos Agenda conference on Monday. He spoke on a panel discussing how to advance a “new social contract.”

“Business leaders must help shape an economy that works for everyone,” he said. “It is part of the social contract.”

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Quincey said defining a mission was important for companies looking to drive change.

“People have got to know what your company stands for and people have got to know you want to reflect the markets that you serve,” he said.

Quincey, a Brit who has run Coca-Cola since 2016, drafted a new mission statement for the company in 2019. He changed the company’s guiding mantra from “Beverages for Life” to “Refresh the World and Make a Difference.”

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