CSI Profile, Alba Castillo Baylin, The Coca-Cola Company
Dive into the world of Stakeholder and Social Impact Management with The Coca-Cola Company’s Alba Baylin, who works to create economic empowerment in communities that traditionally have experienced limitations on available opportunities. Philanthropy, community engagement, cause marketing, volunteerism and disaster relief are the chief strategies her team uses, partnering with nonprofit organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, World Central Kitchen, Red Cross of America, USO, National Park Foundation and Special Olympics.
Explore Alba’s early inspiration drawn from The Coca-Cola Company’s CEO, Roberto Goizueta, her insights into the brand’s diverse nonprofit partnerships and how her team engages the brand and its customers through community marketing.
Alli Murphy: Please share a bit about the personal and professional journey that led you to become the VP of Stakeholder & Social Impact Management at The Coca-Cola Company.
Alba Baylin: I immigrated to the United States from Bucaramanga, Colombia, at a young age. My mom used to tell me and my siblings that in the United States, a person could rise from any level to achieve the highest heights. And the example she used was Roberto Goizueta – a Hispanic refugee who had fled from Cuba during the revolution and had risen to become the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company!
After earning my bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and a stint in hospitality, in 1999, I was recruited to the event management team for Coca-Cola. From there, I never looked back.
I loved managing big Coke events – like at the World Economic Forum Davos and big company meetings around the world – but I wanted to get into the P&L side of the business. I moved into customer management for Coke’s global cinema business, then to roles of increasing responsibility in Latin America, first as Director of Revenue Growth Management and later as Group Director, Shopper Marketing. I returned to the North America Operating Unit to lead Hispanic Marketing, where I led strategy on Coca-Cola’s presence at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and then became Vice President of Customer Marketing for U.S. food service and on-premise customers.
In 2019, I assumed my present role as Vice President, Stakeholder and Social Impact Management, directing Coca-Cola’s North America philanthropy strategy, stakeholder engagement, community marketing, employee volunteerism, disaster relief and other functions key to the company’s purpose to “refresh the world and make a difference.”
Alli Murphy: You’ve been with The Coca-Cola Company for 24 years – wow! What key transitions have you seen the brand make in the corporate social impact space in that time as you strive to “refresh the world and make a difference?”
Alba Baylin: Coca-Cola is proud of our 137-year history of commitment to communities, which has expanded through time and become highly focused on various forms of economic empowerment as well as environmental sustainability. I’ve been in this role for four years, and a very strong network of nonprofit partnerships was in place when I arrived. We have worked to build on that, helping our partners through the challenges that COVID-19 presented to the nonprofit world. While we are making meaningful progress, we understand that we must continue to listen to people first, then take action and be accountable for how we can improve. We continue to engage with our partners to identify the challenges our communities face and how we can work together to create opportunities for empowerment.
Alli Murphy: Over the past three years, Coca-Cola has revamped its marketing approach, prioritizing the expansion of its global customer base over conventional sales goals. How does your stakeholder and social impact management work support this corporate strategy?
Alba Baylin: The primary focus of my team is on our North America Operating Unit, and our nonprofit partners are all located in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico. One of the ways we integrate social impact with the business is through community marketing that connects our brands and customers with the positive work of our nonprofit partners. A number of our partnerships have been in place over many decades, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, USO, National Park Foundation and Special Olympics. Other partnerships are with newer nonprofits, for example, National Cares Mentoring and Operation Homefront, among others. In all cases, we strive to promote innovative approaches that address longstanding needs. Last year, for example, we joined with a few large national customers to amplify and celebrate Special Olympics USA. The consumer engagement was tremendous, which underscores the fact that the public, especially young people, responds strongly when a business leads with purpose.
Alli Murphy: Your team drives Coca-Cola’s disaster response strategy through the support of frontline organizations like the American Red Cross and World Central Kitchen. What is your approach to disaster response, and how are your bottling partners involved?
Alba Baylin: We have a robust system across North America that includes Coca-Cola bottlers and partner organizations, including the American Red Cross, World Central Kitchen and Good360. The result is that when a disaster strikes, our water donations are immediately on their way to first responders and community residents. The Coca-Cola Foundation, which is the company’s philanthropic arm, also supports our disaster partners through grants. In addition, our bottling partners are very active with their own on-site assistance to help their communities, local customers get back in operation as well as assistance for their employees who are impacted by the situation.
Alli Murphy: Your team also focuses on making a difference in the North American market through partnerships with nonprofits in program areas such as education, youth development, job skills, entrepreneurial efforts and support for military members and their families. Please tell us about one of your standout programs.
Alba Baylin: We work with national nonprofits that have a grassroots connection to promote economic empowerment in communities that traditionally have experienced limitations on available opportunities. A prime example is the Workforce Readiness Strategy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which was launched in 2020 with Coca-Cola as the founding sponsor. It enables youth to explore career possibilities through hands-on experiences with practitioners and to develop essential skills to become employable. Nearly 3.5 million youth have access to the program through 5000+ local Clubs. This exemplifies the type of initiative we prioritize because of its direct impact on expanding the possibilities for individuals and families in the community. It also underscores the longevity of some of our partnerships in that Boys & Girls Club has been supported by Coca-Cola for more than 75 years.
Alli Murphy: Let’s close with a lightning round!
What trends are you paying attention to as Coca-Cola strives to make a difference in 2024 and beyond?
Alba Baylin: As climate impacts become more evident in parts of the country, we are working closely with our disaster response partners to understand how our system can respond to communities.
What’s one way you prioritize your wellbeing amid your important work?
Alba Baylin: I always make time to spend with my family. As personally rewarding as my work is, family comes first. I also make a point of regular exercise and making time to rejuvenate.
What advice would you give a CSR newbie for advancing in their career?
Alba Baylin: Work for a company whose purpose you can wholeheartedly support, find ways to promote it, and the opportunities for career growth will come.
About The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is a total beverage company with products sold in more than 200 countries and territories. Their company’s purpose is to refresh the world and make a difference. They sell multiple billion-dollar brands across several beverage categories worldwide. Their portfolio of sparkling soft drink brands includes Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta. Their hydration, sports, coffee and tea brands include Dasani, smartwater, vitaminwater, Topo Chico, BODYARMOR, Powerade, Costa, Georgia, Gold Peak and Ayataka. Their nutrition, juice, dairy and plant-based beverage brands include Minute Maid, Simply, innocent, Del Valle, fairlife and AdeS. They’re constantly transforming our portfolio, from reducing sugar in our drinks to bringing innovative new products to market. They seek to positively impact people’s lives, communities and the planet through water replenishment, packaging recycling, sustainable sourcing practices and carbon emissions reductions across our value chain. Together with their bottling partners, they employ more than 700,000 people, helping bring economic opportunity to local communities worldwide. Learn more at www.coca-colacompany.com and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.