The Coca-Cola Company has been a major success story since the end of World War II. Postwar years saw it expand to countries in every region of the world. Its’ brand became synonymous with American capitalism and the subject of criticism by those who view it as a symbol of cultural as well as commercial imperialism. It is currently represented in over 200 countries, with its local bottling concessions continuously proving to be extremely profitable to those fortunate enough to secure local distribution rights. In short, Coca-Cola has succeeded in the field of international trade to an extent envied by almost every other corporation in the world.
Following the end of World War II, the victorious Allied countries (excluding the Soviet Union until the 1953 death of Joseph Stalin) and other western nations established a new world structure in which currencies would be convertible and barriers to trade minimal. Arguably the greatest American success in capitalizing on the opening of lucrative new markets was Coca-Cola, which quickly opened bottling plants across the half of the continent not under Soviet influence. So ubiquitous was its presence, that it became the target of attacks by nationalists and others for representing American military and economic domination. Its global position, however, continued to grow. Its product enjoyed universal appeal among all but the most culturally-protectionist, who saw Coke as representative of an inferior American culture.
Cognizant of its image as a global purveyor of sugary substances and representative of the sometimes politically unpopular United States, Coca-Cola responded by adopting a more environmentally and culturally-sensitive international posture – a transformation consistent with other U.S. multinational corporations confronting the inevitable but politically unpopular phenomenon known as globalization. Wanting to present itself as a global “good citizen,” while continuing to fend off competition from PepsiCo and local brands, it has made environmental stewardship a marketing tool. Toward that end, it developed its “Live Positively/Live For A Difference” campaign, which the company defines as
“. . . a system-wide sustainability framework that is embedded in every aspect of the Coca-Cola business. Through Live Positively the Company strives to create a positive difference in the world."
Principles advanced by this program, which Coca-Cola has developed in partnership with the respected nongovernmental organization Oxfam, include more diverse product offerings; promotion of healthier lifestyles; fostering sustainable communities “through economic development, philanthropy and the creation of economic and social opportunities”; and making the company an “industry leader in energy efficiency and climate protection.” In addition, the program markets itself as advancing the interests of local small businesses, women and minorities.
By developing its “Live Positively” program, Coca-Cola hopes to remain internationally competitive without suffering the kinds of image problems associated with media stories about exploited local labor and environmental damage associated with manufacturing processes. In this way, it has sought to adapt to a global market increasingly focused on environmental sustainability and respect for international labor rights, major concerns among critics of globalization.