Kanarys Advisor Steve Bucherati on “How the Coca-Cola Company Became a Best-in-Class Fair and Equitable Workplace”

 Kanarys Advisor Steve Bucherati on “How the Coca-Cola Company Became a Best-in-Class Fair and Equitable Workplace”

Kanarys advisor Steve Buchareti recently spoke on workplace fairness in part one of his two-part presentation. Steve is the president of Bucherati Group and retired from Coca-Cola where he was the global chief diversity officer. Below are some of the learnings from his presentation, “How the Coca-Cola Company Became a Best-in-Class Fair and Equitable Workplace.” 

Early on, Steve describes workplace fairness as a foundational aspect of DEI work. He explains that in 1999, Coca-Cola went through a series of lawsuits related to discrimination in the workplace, with headlines from The New York Times (“Blacks, Citing Bias at Work, Sue Coca-Cola”) and Wall Street Journal (“Coke Settles Bias Suit for $192.5 Million). At the time, Steve was the head of human resources for Coca-Cola global marketing innovation function and received feedback from the public about their disappointment in the company. He saw how the suits were tarnishing the brand’s all-American image. 

The reasons for the suit were based on the employees’ beliefs that the workplace was discriminatory and management decisions were not equitable, among others. Four separate complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As part of the settlement, Coca-Cola had to establish a task force to ensure the company was implementing the agreed-upon solutions to address the culture that led to the complaints. The seven-person task force was in place for five year. 

At the beginning of the process, Steve was put in the role of overseeing DEI by the CEO and CHRO of Coca-Cola. While meeting with the lead counsel from the suit, Cyrus Mehri, Steve learns an important lesson. Coca-Cola wasn’t sued because there was a lack of diversity within the ranks of employees; it was because “you weren’t always inclusive, and you most certainly weren’t fair” according to Cyrus.

Reviewing the four Ps for an equitable and fair workplace

As part of the process of recovering in the court of public opinion with employees and customers and to satisfy the requirements of the federal ruling, Steve and Coca-Cola did an extensive review of the four Ps: policies, processes, practices and programs. This included establishing an alternative dispute resolution process and a workplace fairness process designed to address issues before they arise. Data was key in ensuring the work was effective as well as reporting and metrics. By 2001, the company had a wide range of monitoring and reporting tools as part of their workplace fairness practices. 

We recommend you view the webinar on how Coca-Cola became an equitable and fair workplace, especially as Steve explains in detail the Coca-Cola alternative dispute resolution process, which he uses with clients to this day. In part two, Steve talks thorough “How The Coca-Cola Company Became a Best-in-Class Diverse and Inclusive Workplace;” you can also read the overview of part two here

Veleisa Burrell

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