Now the Good News on Coca-Cola's Giving: Millions for Water, Women, and Well-Being

Earlier this week, we wrote about the alarming revelation by the New York Times that Coca-Cola was funding misleading science on exercise and obesity—with the goal of shifting blame away from sugary drinks.

Call this the bad Coke philanthropy. But, as we noted at the time, there's also a lot of good Coke giving too, and we just got a big reminder of that this week, as the Coca-Cola Foundation reported that it had awarded over $26 million in grants to 74 community organizations across the globe.

(This announcement came on Monday, just one day after the New York Times ran its expose on Coke's junk science giving. Coincidence? We'll leave that to our readers to decide.)

Related: From Coca-Cola, a Reminder About Corporate Philanthropy’s Dark Side

According to the press release, the foundation’s dollars will directly benefit over 90 million people in 75 countries. Although a couple million dollars were dedicated to HIV/AIDS and disaster relief efforts, the clear winners of the foundation’s windfall are water, women, and well-being.

The leader of this latest funding pack is water. Water stewardship is a pillar of the Coca-Cola Company'’s social responsibility commitment, which also translates into the Coca-Cola Foundation’s water grantmaking around the globe. So far this year, the foundation has dedicated over $9 million to water projects, which are often tied to environmental stewardship—another issue important to both the foundation and the company.

The biggest water-related give so far this year was awarded to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which received a $2.25 million grant in support of its New World: Inclusive Sustainable Human Development Initiatives. The initiatives were launched by Coca-Cola and the UNDP in 2014 and operate across multiple countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Coca-Cola Foundation also awarded the UNDP an additional $950,000 grant to support its water conservation and sustainability work in the Lower and Middle Reaches of the Yellow River Basin and the Haihe River Basin in China.

Related: Coca-Cola Kicks in for Water Work in Kenya

One side note about Coke's giving to the UNDP: We notice that a number of the biggest corporate funders operating globally often channel money to international governmental organizations—UNHCR is a favorite—whereas this practice is less common among private foundations.

Another large water grant of $1.7 million was awarded to Pronatura Mexico in support of its water work in marginalized communities. The majority of the remaining related grants were awarded to organizations working on water sustainability, supply chain, conservation, and resource management. A relatively small percentage of Coca-Cola’s water-related grants—around $750,000—were dedicated to WASH organizations.

Up next on the Coca-Cola Foundation’s top areas of grantmaking is well-being. Overall, the foundation awarded over $12 million toward these efforts, however, it splits its well-being giving into three categories: education and youth development; active and healthy living; and health.  

The largest grant awarded was in relation to the foundation’s education and youth development grantmaking program. Earlier this year, the Coca-Cola Foundation partnered with Mercy Corps and committed $3.15 million to the Youth Empowered for Success (YES!) Program. YES! operates in multiple African countries. The foundation has awarded around $5.5 million in education and youth development grants so far this year.

The foundation also awarded some hefty grants out of its Active and Healthy Living program, including $1.1 million to the Association for Promoting Healthy Life and Health Policy. Based in Turkey, this organization is using its grant to support its Active Life Project. Another big give of $550,000 went to streetfootballworld, a German group, in support of its Football for Social Change program. Coca-Cola’s Active Health and Living grants total $5.6 million to date.

Finally, the Coca-Cola Foundation has awarded $2.3 million in women’s empowerment grants to three organizations. The Pact Institute in Myanmar received a $2 million grant to support its Swan Yi II: Strengthening Abilities for Women’s Economic Empowerment program. The U.S.-based Metroplex Economic Development Corporation received a $200,000 grant in support of its program, The Success Factor: The Fast Track to Owning Your Own Business and the French-based Force Femmes received a $100,000 grant in support of its Women in Business Academy.  

Related: What Does Coca-Cola Have To Do With Women’s Empowerment? Actually, a Lot

In short, the Coca-Cola Foundation is into a lot of causes worldwide—most of which, it should be said, have nothing to do with keeping consumers hooked on its soft drinks, no matter what the health fallout.