The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, is expanding its 5by20 initiative to enable the economic empowerment of women beyond its pilot programs in four countries to a total of 12 countries: Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Haiti, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa and Thailand. The company is on track to reach 300,000 women by the end of 2012 and reports strong progress toward its goal of reaching 5 million women entrepreneurs across the Coca-Cola value chain by 2020.

By providing access to business skills, financial services, assets and support networks of peers and mentors, 5by20 is helping women succeed as entrepreneurs while also creating thriving, sustainable communities, the company says.

“Working with and investing in women is one of the most powerful ways to spur sustainable economic growth and development,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Co., in a statement. “I’m excited by the progress we’re making toward our goal to empower 5 million women. We are transforming lives and communities, making a profound and lasting impact on global issues and also growing our business.”

This expansion includes the launch of 5by20 in China in partnership with the All China Women’s Federation to provide business skills to female retailers, with the initial pilot program under way in Guangxi Province. In Kenya, young women entrepreneurs are receiving business skills training and retail assets to establish new enterprises in partnership with TechnoServe. In Mexico, young women are receiving business skills training and being trained for their first job.

In addition, several new 5by20 programs are a result of the partnership that The Coca-Cola Co. and UN Women, a UN organization established as a global champion for women and girls, announced in September 2011.

“Women need more opportunities to participate fully and equally in the workforce,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN Women executive director, in a statement. “Countless studies point to the fact that companies with a higher share of women have improved results — higher levels of innovation, productivity and profit margins. UN Women supports women’s economic empowerment as a key priority to advance gender equality and improve the lives of women around the world.”

The Coca-Cola Co. and UN Women’s $4 million partnership will economically empower 40,000 women during three years in Egypt, Brazil and South Africa. The two organizations are collaborating to provide women with business skills training, leadership training and access to financial assets.

In Egypt, The Coca-Cola Co. and UN Women are providing women entrepreneurs with retail kiosks, business skills training and access to mentors. In Brazil, the partnership is focused on reaching women recyclers, artisans and community leaders throughout Coca-Cola’s value chain to provide leadership skill development and business skills training. In South Africa, the two organizations are providing retailers with business skills training, mentoring and guidance on networking with peers.

“Women entrepreneurs around the world are faced with numerous barriers to success,” said Charlotte Oades, global director of women’s economic empowerment for The Coca-Cola Co., in a statement. “We believe providing access to training, finance and support networks are the best ways to help women overcome barriers, unlock their untapped potential and build their business in a sustainable way.”

In addition to the 5by20 initiative, The Coca-Cola Co. supports other women’s economic empowerment efforts around the world. In June, as part of its re-entry into Myanmar, the company announced a $3 million grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the company's charitable giving arm, to Pact. The company will work with Pact, a non-governmental organization, to support women's economic empowerment and job creation initiatives throughout the country through a program called Worth. This program initially will fund women interested in supporting a variety of businesses, and Coca-Cola expects the program to eventually identify women entrepreneurs interested in becoming independent shopkeepers and distributors of Coca-Cola products.