Sustainability: building a system with people not for people

Sri Lanka Coca-Cola distribution
Image credit: Tielman Nieuwoudt

Here’s the latest from Adrian Ristow who’s been leading the research into Coca-Cola distribution in east Africa:

A bit of a gap in communication from me – but my August has been a bit different this year; I had to spend some time back in South Africa on some other work. But the MDC (Manual Distribution Centre) research project has been on my mind and I’m as excited as ever about the future – ‘super excited’, as some of my super American friends would say ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve spent a lot of time speaking to MDC owners and their staff, as well as with the key sales staff from the local bottling company, to get a deeper understanding of the current reality and future potential. So much so that I’m dreaming Coca-Cola dreams at night and visiting MDCs in my sleep! Maybe that’s not such a bad thing: nothing happens if you don’t have a dream, and my ultimate vision is for this system to spread and grow – beyond what any of us can imagine at present.

A key goal was to understand better the current community benefits of the locally-owned distribution businesses, through the eyes of external researchers. We also wanted to get a clearer understanding of the priority social issues facing MDC owners, their staff and the surrounding communities. This feedback will help us find ways to enhance the community benefit from the MDCs, while importantly not risking the income of the entrepreneurs who earn their livelihoods from these businesses. We’re not looking for a trade-off or a compromise, but a win:win solution that will let the market work for us.

One of my biggest challenges is patience. It would be great to do everything now, but then I am reminded that we are dealing with an extensive network of independently owned small businesses. We want to build a unique and sustainable solution with them not for them, which can take a bit of time.

However, we’ll soon be able to move from the research phase and building the conceptual understanding to some practical on-the-ground testing. Now our team are reviewing and analysing the research data that we collected during July, and we’re aiming to share some key findings towards the end of September. So watch this space!


  1. Simon Berry says:

    Latest from Tanzania – – results available soon #colalife