Honoring Our Veterans With Employment

President & CEO, Coca-Cola Refreshments
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For more than 230 years, our military has fought to preserve freedom and opportunity for our nation. As the current conflicts draw down, we have a collective obligation to return that opportunity to our service members.

Over the next five years, approximately 100,000 veterans are expected to transition to civilian life. As we commemorate Memorial Day by honoring the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, I am calling on the U.S. business community to commit to hiring each of these veterans who is able and willing to work.

At Coca-Cola, we plan to offer at least 800 job and career opportunities to military veterans this year through a new recruitment strategy designed to identify and acquire military talent at all levels. It includes specialized training for company recruiters and hiring managers; a military career website we’ll launch in June; the development of partnerships with U.S. Department of Defense; and upcoming participation in key military career conferences, job fairs and networking events.

We’re not alone. Companies like Home Depot, Lowe’s, General Electric, 7-11, and Bank of America, to name a few, are actively supporting and hiring our military veterans.

For Coca-Cola, our commitment is an extension of our strong relationship with the military that began more than 70 years ago. During World War II, The Coca-Cola Company Chairman Robert Woodruff committed “to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company.” He knew that this simple pleasure would inspire a few moments of optimism and happiness when both were in short supply.

The business community now has the privilege of providing optimism and happiness in the form of employment opportunities, and I believe it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Our military personnel have voluntarily endured hardships to serve and protect our country. When they return home, they deserve support and recognition from our great American companies.

It also makes perfect business sense. Military veterans bring the leadership, discipline and commitment to excellence that winning companies look for in their associates. They demonstrate tremendous accountability, and they’re hardworking and loyal. They’re problem solvers and understand that obstacles to an objective only make that objective more valuable. They’re passionate about winning and understand the value of teamwork in getting there. In short, these vets provide as much value for business as business does for them.

I’ve seen this first-hand. In North America, our business has grown for eight straight quarters in a very challenging economy. I’m convinced one of the many reasons for this success is the leadership of the 5,500 military veterans on our team who have embraced the challenge, thrived in difficulty, and demonstrated that anything can be done. While they’re helping to drive our business, they’re impact goes well beyond Coca-Cola. That’s because when we grow, so do other businesses.

For example, industry studies have shown that for every job created in a community by the beverage industry, an estimated four additional jobs are generated for our suppliers and retail partners. These jobs help stimulate local economic activity, which is especially important to the small and medium enterprises up and down Main Street. Our retail customers depend on the sale of our beverages to help grow their businesses. In fact, our beverages can account for 15-30% of revenues for customers — from local restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores to movie theaters, barber shops and hundreds of other businesses.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to business success, our military veterans are a significant part of that. So as we strive to provide economic opportunities for our consumers, retail customers and communities, we want them by our side.

That is our commitment. I can’t think of a better way to say thank you to our military veterans.