At the start of the pandemic, we joined more than 200 businesses in signing the Covid-19 Business Pledge. This is a commitment to harness the power of business as a force for good and ensure that as the country starts to recover, we balance economic concerns without losing sight of our broader societal responsibilities.
Collaboration is the most powerful tool we have. Throughout the pandemic, the food and drink industry led the way and demonstrated how quickly and efficiently this industry can pull together to achieve incredible things. Watching how our retail partners, in particular, have responded to the challenges they faced during the pandemic has been inspirational.
But there will be more challenges to come, and we need to continue this approach to make sure they are overcome. After GDP fell by a quarter in the first six weeks of lockdown, there was only a small increase (1.8%) in May. While some, such as the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane, are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of a V-shaped recovery, the Bank of England also expects unemployment to rise to 9%. It is clear that the pandemic will have long-term effects on our economy and the ways in which we all do business.
Managing these long-term challenges and making sure we take the opportunity to build back better will require everyone across the value chain and government to work together more closely than ever.
For our part, we recognised at the start of the crisis that we would need to play a positive role in helping our communities and our customers recover from the impact of lockdown. We are proud to have helped FareShare provide two million meals to those in need, for instance, as part of a $120m global investment by The Coca-Cola Company to support local relief efforts. Throughout the pandemic we’ve continued to provide insight and advice to independent retailers through our platforms and partners, and supported a scheme established by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents to provide emergency grants to independent retailers in financial difficulty to ensure they remain operational at a time when the role they play locally is more critical than ever.
Now, as many more businesses are reopening, we’ve launched ‘Open Like Never Before’ – a Coca-Cola campaign founded on the belief that we don’t just have to go back to normal following this huge change in everyone’s lives. Instead, it’s our ambition to move forward and make our communities not just different, but better places.
The on-trade has undoubtably been the hardest hit during this period and we are hugely concerned about this. These businesses are vital to local communities and the economy and it is our responsibility to support them in the best way we can. That’s why we’ve committed to a package of support totalling almost £20m. This includes using Coca-Cola’s biggest asset in Great Britain – its reach – to support our customers. We’re directly handing over some of our advertising space to our partners across GB including pubs, local hotels, cafés and restaurants; producing billboard and OOH advertisements for over 100 businesses; and giving them the tools, including an online ad generator, to easily create their own advertisements free of charge and communicate that they are once again open for business in their local area.
We are also committed to working with others to make other positive changes for the long term through a sustainable, green recovery. Our pledge to move all of our plastic bottles to 50% recycled content by the end of 2020 has not wavered, for instance, and we’re working with all stakeholders to help establish a beverage container deposit return scheme across Great Britain. We will continue to invest more than £1m per week in this country and purchase goods and services worth nearly £1.4bn from UK businesses in 2020. We’re also standing alongside other major players in the industry through our industry federations and continue to have a constant dialogue with government.
As the country moves into a sustainable recovery, being open and working together like never before has never been more important.