Featured Case Study
The worst flooding in 50 years hit Thailand between August and November 2011, affecting 1.9 million households, five million people, millions of acres of farmland and 28,500 manufacturers. Coca-Cola in Thailand partnered with the Thai Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity to execute a relief and rebuilding programme
The Coca-Cola Foundation Thailand has been working closely with the Thai Red Cross since 2007 to provide bottled water and emergency support to communities confronted by disaster. The nationwide collaboration, the first of its kind in Thailand, focused on both disaster preparedness and disaster relief. Coca-Cola has an extensive transportation and distribution network with thousands of trucks and 80 warehouses, plus thousands of employees trained by the Thai Red Cross.
Coca-Cola Thailand, with its local bottling partners, ThaiNamthip and Haad Thip, and supported by the Coca-Cola Foundation in the United States, had pledged $2 million for the sustainable relief of flooding, a constant problem in Thailand, particularly in rural areas.
In 2011 these commitments were put fully to the test. The worst flooding in 50 years hit the country between August and November 2011, affecting 1.9 million households, 5 million people, 11.5 million rai (4.5 million acres, 1.8 million hectares) of farmland and 28,500 manufacturers. The flooding spread over 17 provinces north of Bangkok, killed more than 800 people and caused the biggest quarterly drop in the economy on record. The devastation to homes, communities, factories and public buildings was massive.
Following confusion in the government’s statements about the direction, scale and likely impact of the coming floods, many people lacked trust in the authorities’ efforts to limit the damage, which led international and local companies as well as the general public to step up their own collaborative efforts.
Many areas, particularly in Bangkok, were put on flood alert and companies were forced to scale back operations to allow staff to leave for more secure places. As a major employer in Thailand, Coca-Cola took a central role in both assisting its staff and looking to help the wider relief effort alongside the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, the Royal Thai police, the armed forces and the public.
Coca-Cola Thailand formed a crisis team called “Reunite to Relieve and Rebuild Thailand” and contacted public services, civil society and businesses in the belief that collaboration would bring better solutions and distribute the benefits more widely.
Objectives and delivery
As the floods wreaked havoc across much of the country and threatened to inundate metropolitan areas, the working team decided to work with the Thai Red Cross and Habit for Humanity to bring relief to victims and help rebuild communities after the water receded.
All Coca-Cola advertising was put on hold and committed advertising space was devoted to efforts to tackle the crisis. Coca-Cola is the fifth-biggest advertiser in the country, spending close to $40 million a year, and during the flood period it handed over 119 TV spots, 840 radio spots and three print advertisements to the “Reunite to Relieve and Rebuild Thailand” campaign. The advertising was aimed directly at raising funds and recruiting volunteers for the Thai Red Cross Society and Habitat for Humanity Thailand. A new television commercial was filmed and was ready for broadcast within a week of the decision being made.
Within that seven-day period all the partners agreed to the plan set out under the “Re-Unite to Relieve and Rebuild” programme. They maintained regular dialogue with the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, the police and the army. At this stage many shops and supermarkets had experienced a surge in demand for non-perishable goods. Drinking water was becoming scarce because of panic buying due to fears inner city areas could be submerged.
By this stage Coca-Cola itself had been badly affected by the floods, but it endeavoured to maintain the campaign and relief effort. In Coca-Cola’s bottling facilities, bottled water was being produced in three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Two plants north of Bangkok were surrounded by deep floodwater but carried on working. Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Bangkok became inaccessible due to flooding.
Coca-Cola donated four million bottles of Namthip water to provide immediate relief to those cut off or those without water. At the same time, Coca-Cola’s website and digital media “Live Positively Facebook” were used to mobilise consumers, providing information and directing readers to where they could donate money or volunteer.
This initiative successfully gathered 2,000 volunteers to help the Thai Red Cross Society’s mobile kitchens, cooking 200,000 sets of fresh meals for those affected by the flooding delivered along with a further 500,000 bottles of Namthip drinking water. The measures undertaken were welcomed by the government and emergency services.
Lt.Gen Dr. AmnatBarlee, Director of the Relief and Community Health Bureau said: “Food and clean drinking water are vital for all flood victims in all affected areas and we have to supply nutritional meals and water every day during this time. The Thai Red Cross Society is pleased that the Coca-Cola Foundation Thailand is continuously supporting our disaster relief work by donating cash and necessary food and water. Their help to recruit volunteer support for the mobile kitchen has been particularly helpful, enabling us to successfully complete our mission.”
As the flooding receded, operations switched to the rebuilding phase and, in close collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, a further $1.3 million was donated to renovate more than 600 damaged sites, repairing 529 houses, rebuilding another seven and restoring 25 schools in four provinces.
During this period a further 4,000 volunteers were mobilised to take part in clean-up activities organised by Coca-Cola in cooperation with local governors in the provinces of Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and Bangkok.
Coca-Cola worked hard to maintain the volunteering spirit among its staff and consumers. As the rebuilding effort got underway, it encouraged a further 3,700 additional volunteers to help Habit for Humanity operations at 18 sites badly damaged by the floods.
In total $3.2 million was pledged by Coca-Cola for emergency relief and rebuilding efforts in partnership with the Thai Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. But the programme was about more than money: it involved establishing a culture of partnership, volunteerism and strategic engagement with government and emergency services. In all, some 10,000 volunteers helped to distribute 4 million bottles of water and 200,000 meals. Over 10,000 flood victims benefited from rebuilding and restoration work.
The company’s work generated more than 250 stories in the Thai media and an estimated advertising value of $1 million.
The engagement has also had a lasting impact, building capacity and trust between operators involved in emergency planning and relief. Relations between the Thai Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, the Thai police and the army were strengthened by the flooding crisis. This mutual understanding and respect should ensure more effective cooperation should it be needed in the future.
In the longer term, Coca-Cola is looking to assist in developing sustainable frameworks for flood prevention. Forming part of the Coca-Cola “Live Positively” commitment on water, the company has been working closely with the Hydro and Informatics Institute as well as other water resource organisations to promote water management in local communities.
Habitat for Humanity
The Thai Red Cross
The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA)
Province of Nonthaburi
Province of Pathumthani
The Royal Thai Army
The Royal Thai Police
This case study was compiled by SharingValueAsia in consultation with relevant stakeholders. It will appear in a special report “Partnership in Action”, published in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard in August 2014