Sunday, 25th February 2018

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent

Posted on 02. May, 2011 by in LEADERSHIP, OPERATIONS

You are the current Chair of the U.S.-China Business Council (UCBC). How does UCBC help the business relationship between the two countries?

The USCBC was founded in 1973 as a private and nonprofit organization to expand the U.S.-China commercial relationship. Our mission is to represent the business interest of our 220 members in China and also more broadly to help the US economy. We help the bilateral business relationship by providing leadership, influence and information in all areas of trade ranging from intellectual property rights to foreign direct investment. We have offices in Washington DC, Beijing and Shanghai and we often host dignitaries in our offices. We listen to them and they listen to our concerns. Communication, open and honest dialogue encourages constructive engagement with China that ultimately eliminates trade and investment barriers and develop a rules-based commercial environment that is predictable and transparent to all parties.

The member list for UCBC includes household names like The Coca Cola Company, IBM Corporation, Google, Inc. and Kissinger Associates, Inc. among others. Yet most of the new jobs are created by small businesses in this country. Do you only represent the interest of big business or do you have programs helping smaller US companies? What are they?

You are correct that our member list includes some of the most recognized names in America and around the world. However, we are also proud to have a diverse membership that includes smaller companies. In fact, smaller companies and service firms make up a substantial portion of the overall membership. Among our members you will find management consulting partnerships, health care companies and manufacturing firms that represent the smaller enterprises. So we represent all of our members regardless of their company size. We help our members by providing guidance, assistance and access to information that helps them become successful in doing business with China.

Should China be the first international market to explore for U.S. companies looking to expand abroad? It used to be the UK due to low language and cultural barriers?

The Coca-Cola Company began operating in China over 80 years ago. Our first bottling plants being opened in 1927 in Shanghai and Tianjin. Following the opening up of China in the late 1970s, Coca-Cola re-entered the marketplace in 1979. Our system now includes 39 bottling plants in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. In 2009, we publicly committed to invest $2 billion dollars in China over the subsequent three years. Today, our business in China employs 40,000 professionals and our extended supply chain helps support nearly half a million Chinese families. China is now our third largest market and our exceptional growth has made China the world’s #1 market for Sprite. I cannot tell you how to run your company, but we have been in China and successful for a very long time.

Over the next decade, can a U.S. based company be truly global without significant operations in China?

We see China not only as a great market for our products, but also as a development center for our company. China has become a major focal point for innovation in the Coca-Cola system. We recently opened a new $90 million U.S. dollar facility in Shanghai that is our company’s largest and most advanced research and development center in all of Asia. In the new facility more than 100 of the top research experts and food scientists from China and throughout Asia work on breakthrough products and innovations. The products we develop in the facility reach Chinese consumers who reach for our brands more than 100 million times a day… and the world’s consumers who reach for our brands over 1.5 billion times a day. We have been a global company for a very long time and our presence in China only enhances our capabilities.

How can UCBC help companies penetrate the Chinese market?

Our organization provides advocacy to both the Chinese and the U.S. governments on behalf of our members. We closely follow governmental policies that affect our members and provide our opinions to the leadership of both countries based on facts. We gather our facts from the annual surveys that we collect as well as the reports that we commission. We also have joint commissions on commerce and trade that provide guidance, objectives and goals for bilateral business. Our organization’s objective is to provide the climate that enables companies to do business in China.

One of the biggest advantages the U.S. has is its diversity. You are a product of this advantage as a Turkish American representing the U.S. business community in the most important relationship in the world. How does it feel? What can U.S. companies do to take advantage of this important aspect of our culture?

Diversity is at the heart of our business. We strive to create a work environment that provides all our associates equal access to information, development and opportunity. By building an inclusive workplace environment, we seek to leverage our global team of associates, which is rich in diverse people, talent and ideas. We see diversity as more than just policies and practices. It is an integral part of who we are as a company, how we operate and how we see our future.

As a global business, our ability to understand, embrace and operate in a multicultural world, both in the marketplace and in the workplace, is critical to our long-term sustainability and specifically, impacts our ability to meet our 2020 Vision People goals. Many people across the company continue to work diligently to help us advance in our diversity journey and build our practices on diversity, inclusion and fairness. We also include our associates in the process. We garner their feedback through formal surveys and informally through their participation in our business resource groups, and various diversity education programs. Ultimately, the diversity of our company helps us become successful globally.

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