Notes of the first face to face with Salvatore Gabola

Salvatore Gabola

Here is a summary of the face to face meeting with Salvatore Gabola at Coca Cola’s European HQ in Brussels from 12-14:30 on 16/6/08.

1 The unique and interesting elements of our campaign were highlighted again:

  1. it’s not about traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but about the Commercial Sector working with other sectors (Gov and NGOs), with each working to its strengths, to achieve something that neither could achieve by themselves
  2. Coca-Cola support many projects aimed at getting community access to fresh water and sanitation but they are traditional CSR-type projects, so this idea is different.
  3. the fact that it is a positive campaign based on practical action

There have been other attempts by Coca-Cola at distribution of non-Coca-Cola products in the past but these have not been successful for different reasons. The distribution of medication for HIV/AIDS did not work because the medicines need special storage conditions, needed to arrive in a predictable manner, needed specialist medical personnel to prescribe them etc etc. The distribution of condoms did not have the same problems but suffered from others, including the usual issues that arise around the subject of birth control. The benefits of connecting to recycling initiatives were also not evident, in countries mostly using refillable bottles and where the rare cans are already picked up as valuable recyclables.

However, this idea, on the face of it, would appear to be relatively free of controversy.  >>more

2 How to take things forward 

It was our view that in order to take this idea forward we need to identify an appropriate NGO (or NGOs) to take up
this idea with a view to this NGO working with Coca-Cola to trial and implement.


2.1 SB to pursue links with WaterAid through Global Tolerance and his own links (as a supporter)

2.2 SG to check existing relationships that Coca-Cola has with NGOs working on such issues in East Africa (where the pilot may take place).

3 Risks

We only identified one significant risk to Coca-Cola in pursuing this project but there may be more. This was that in
order for Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to be used safely, non-infected water is required. If ORS were used with infected water then this could do more harm than good.


Could sanitation tablets (or a powder version of the same ingredients) be mixed in with ORS safely?


3.1  SB to make enquiries starting with The Rehydration Project in India who are supporters of this campaign.

4 Using the Tanzanian Research Project as a springboard to trial this idea.

SG again suggested that this research project be used to start to test this idea. My only concern is that this idea
was not part of this trial and so may be sidelined. However, the research project is about exploring new ideas and may provide a vehicle for some relatively quick trialing of the idea.


4.1  SG to dig out documentation relating to the Tanzania Project and to check which parts can be shared with
the group.

4.2  That there is a meeting after the first phase of the Tanzanian research to discuss ways forward. This would
include the NGO(s) in 2.1 and 2.2 above and possibly a member of the Facebook group.

4.3  SG to advise on the feasibility of such a meeting, date (Aug/Sep?), venue etc

5 The importance of ‘local’

At several points during the meeting we returned to the issue that anything that is done needs to be defined by the
local conditions (local organisations, local structures and processes etc). It may be, therefore, that the successful implementation of this idea is broken down into four or five key functions and that these would then be implemented by different people/organsations in different localities depending on local
circumstances. ie not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

6 SG’s role

SG will not be the person who will make the decision on whether this project goes forward or not. That will depend on several others within Coca-Cola coming on board. Key among these will be the head of Coca-Cola in Africa and the Africa marketing team. We’d need the support of their colleagues in the other territories to make this happen outside of Africa. However, I think we have a real advocate in SG who has already engineered joint working relationships with WWF and Greenpeace during his time at Coca-Cola.

6.1  SG to spread the word about our campaign and discuss with the appropriate people within Coca Cola.

7 More collaboration like this

SG was really interested on the online element of this campaign and thought that there should be more places where
businesses and not-for-profit organisations can discuss matters of societal interest online. I can’t believe that this isn’t already happening but having said that, I don’t know of anywhere where it is. Anyone fancy taking this on?!

8 Next Business Call for Action

SG mentioned that there was a follow-up to the Business Call to Action in New York around 24-25/9/08.
Wouldn’t it be great if this idea got a mention by the Coca-Cola CEO there?!

So, once more, trust has been built and now specific actions have emerged. I will keep members posted on progress with these action points through the Facebook group and my blog.

Onwards and upwards

SB 16.06.08

Further information:
All of the Coca-Cola campaign posts


  1. Sounds like a really positive meeting … with a wider opportunity as well. You said:
    “SG was really interested on the online element of this campaign and thought that there should be more places where businesses and not-for-profit organisations can discuss matters of societal interest online ….. Anyone fancy taking this on?!”
    Certainly interesting in exploring

  2. Thanks for this feedback and report Simon – it looks as if this was a positive meeting and provided opportunities to take your vision forward. Certainly keen to continue offering support as and when we can.

  3. Hi Simon
    I’ve been reading the archive posts on this and will go to the Facebook group today. I would certainly be interested in helping out on the idea of a collaborative platform for NGOs and companies with CSR programmes. I’ve spent a few minutes googling and can’t find a matchmaking tool for companies and development projects. Sounds an obvious idea…

    I read on a previous post that Coca Cola would like to see a groundswell of support for this locally. There’s another obvious application for social media here too- as a kind of triangulation tool between western individuals and groups, local citizens in developing countries and NGOs. Such networks would really help when approaching Coca Cola and other large corporations.

    This is a very exciting project and a terrific idea. Congratulations!

  4. I’ve been following your campaign and supporting it for some time now. There is a general admiration as to how successful it has become in such a relatively short space of time. More recently I have admired how you have managed to get an initial meeting with Coca Cola. To lend my further support I’ve add the cause to my blog and hopefully it may encourage others to join this great idea. Furthermore I think Tim is right there is a gap that needs to be filled concerning a platform that can join business, communities, NGO’s and governments.

    Wishing you all the best.


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