Often clean water is not available due to the impact of the disaster. Coca-Cola China developed this “clean water 24” emergency drinking water mechanism based on their nationwide distribution system to provide safe drinking water to disaster areas within the first 24 hours.
Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management
Water is the source of life. At times of disaster, drinking water is one of the most needed supplies. However, often water is not available due to the impact of the disaster. China suffers from frequent natural disasters. Due to the vast territory, the traditional disaster relief model of disaster preparedness, procurement, storage and logistics of emergency relief supplies faces many challenges in terms of time, distance and space. These challenges affect the timely availability of emergency drinking water during relief operation.
In 2013, Coca-cola China launched the innovative “Clean Water 24” emergency drinking water mechanism, enabling the prompt allocation of their products from the nearest locations to the people in need. They made that possible by leveraging their nationwide distribution system and the expertise of their government and NGO partners.
By 2016, the Coca-Cola China system activated this emergency drinking water supply mechanism 122 times and delivered more than 13 million bottles of drinking water to more than 1.5 million people in disaster areas.
The innovation is unique because it’s very creative. The idea is based upon the company’s own resources and avoids the problems in the traditional disaster relief model. Their large distribution network allows them to deliver drinking water quickly and to reach communities not easily accessible. By delivering bottled drinking water to the people within 24 hours in a disaster, this innovation provides clean water and sanitation at critical moments and it ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being. In a better world, people connect and care for each other. This innovation helps people in need and reflects the company’s attitude of “we care”. Just as Mr. Yang said, “water arrived, heart reached.”
In 2008, the Wenchuan Earthquake shook the whole country. Millions of individuals and companies donated money and necessities. Yang Jia, who was with Sustainability at Coca-Cola was touched deeply and did a lot of thinking. It takes time to gather the money and distribute it to people in need. But most of the times, due to the disaster, there are not enough supplies to buy even when they get money. Many volunteers drive to the disaster areas with tents, food and water. But without proper deployment, it may also cause material surplus and traffic jams. So, he was thinking, “are there better ways for a company to contribute for disaster relief?” With Coca-Cola, he naturally thought of drinking water. One of the immediate needs at a disaster is drinking and Coca-Cola already has bottling plants, storehouses and a logistic system all around the country, it’s possible for them to react quickly and deliver bottled drinking water to disaster areas. Mr. Yang said to himself then, “With our logistic system, the water can be in people’s hands within 24 hours.” That’s the beginning idea of the “Clean Water 24”.
In the few years after that, he tried to find a proper terminal partner, which was the only missing part in his plan. At the end of 2012, he was impressed by “One Foundation” at a charity run. “They have really good insights and the very ability to touch peoples’ heart,” and started to partner with “One Foundation”, the first private charitable fundraising organization in China. Only a few months later, the Yaan Earthquake occurred in 2013. “Clean Water 24” was launched the first time and proved to be successful.
The short term effects of the innovation: ever since this “Clean Water 24” mechanism launched, the disaster relief activity from the company could initiate immediately and automatically without any delay for decision making. And people of the disaster area could get clean drinking water within 24 hours. Long term effects is that, the innovation has set up a good example for other business companies, provoking them to reflect on the unique ways they could contribute to disaster relief based on their own resources.
The innovation was already activated for 122 times successfully and average reaction time is 10.3 hours. The application of this innovation is no longer limited to earthquakes. It is applicable to a variety of emergent occasions, such as flood, landslide, et al.
The innovation is well known and studied as a textbook. It was given an award for “Enterprise development and society innovation cases” in 2015.
Because the business launches “Clean Water 24”, these good things have happened. For one thing, it saved money and is sustainable. Normally, after a disaster happens, many companies will donate a certain amount of money voluntarily. They do it out of compassion originally. But sometimes, people might compare them with other companies and even criticize them for the amounts of money they donated. It becomes a competition and pressure. It’s hard to decide how much I should donate. With this plan, only necessary amounts of water will be delivered to the area and it avoids confusion and waste. Mr. Yang said, “You can do more with less. Instead of donating 8 to 10 million RMB, we donated 74000 bottles of water once. It will not cause the waste of materials or traffic jam.”
Secondly, this unique and creative idea stands out among all other companies and has quite good branding effect. It is widely known and even written in textbooks. “Sustainability of public relations is important. The value is not assessable,” said Mr. Yang.
Moreover, this innovation shows well of the company value: “We Care” and employees involved are so proud of themselves. Mr. Yang proudly added, “Even our family members feel we are with an amazing company!”
People at disaster areas really need this prompt, precise, organized and critical help. It will take a much shorter time compared with traditional ways. Within 24 hours, people at the disaster area could get clean drinking water. The average reaction time is only 10.3 hours.
Government and societies also benefit from this innovation. If the government and societies store large amount of bottled drinking water for critical moments at every place all years round, it will take a lot of space and money. And if nothing happens, the supplies will be expired and need to be gotten rid of and replaced with new stuff every couple of years. It will waste a lot of money and materials. If arranging clean drinking water after the disaster occurs, , it will take a longer time to get funds, purchase and transport the clean drinking water.
This innovation could benefit societies all around the country. No matter when or where, no matter what kind of disaster happens, earthquake, flood or landslide, their nationwide distribution system could allocate their products promptly from the nearest locations.
Jia Yang, Director for sustainability at Coca-cola in China
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Business Website: www.coca-cola.com.cn
Year Founded: 1979
Number of Employees: 10000+