The image of women separating rubbish at public places in Ha Trung ward, Ha Long city, Quang Ninh province is becoming increasingly familiar. This is how women at the world 's natural wonders repel the threat of plastic waste.

The "revolution" of transforming garbage into money

Many public construction works in Ha Trung Ward, Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province are built from a special material: plastic bricks. Not born in specialized factories, plastic bricks were created by the hands of women in the local area. Plastic water bottles, filled with used plastic bags and paper, not only prevent waste from being discharged into the environment but also become a new useful material to build public facilities to serve the needs of the residents here.

Statistics of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Quang Ninh Province reveal that the total amount of domestic solid waste generated in the province is 1,200 tons/day. Particularly, plastic waste accounts for a large portion, making landfill sites in most localities overloaded. Recycling plastic waste is an effective solution that people in Ha Long, site of the world’s natural wonder Ha Long Bay, can do.

Plastic bricks are the only part of the community protection activities of women in Ha Trung Ward. For one year, the Green Development Support Center (Greenhub) in cooperation with Coca-Cola Vietnam implemented the PAN project -- the Plastic Action Network on Reducing - Reusing - Recycling plastic waste to support "Raising awareness of solid waste management in Quang Ninh province" project. The women here do not only change their own perceptions but also contribute to altering the view of the community towards solid waste management.

Plastic bags are a type of plastic waste that is usually not recyclable. However, women in Ha Trung Ward (Ha Long City) have a bold way to take advantage of them. Plastic bags will be sorted and processed to become the core for plastic bricks.

The Women’s Union of Ha Trung Ward has built a project to collect scrap and sort plastic bottles to make Ecobrick - becoming one of the leading wards in Vietnam working with the pioneering Women's Union for the proactive  prevention and positive improvement of plastic waste pollution. Many women earn extra income by collecting plastic bottles and scrap, and creating high-quality recycled products that can be marketed.

Apart from visiting each household to mobilize and collect each beer can, paper cover, small plastic bottles, etc., the sales or sorting of scraps is also conducted publicly in crowded locations to attract as much attention as possible.

“We do not do silent work, nor do I consider the collection and separation of waste as a disturbing job. Thus, we organize these activities directly in public areas so that many people would notice. At first, they can be curious; then they will feel it meaningful and participate as well as contribute recyclable waste to the program, together spreading more positive actions to the community. This is a revolution in awareness,” said Ms. Dao Thi Huyen - Chairman of Ha Trung Women’s Union, Ha Long city.

The PAN Project (Plastic Action Network) - The plastic waste reduction, reuse and recycling action network built by the Centre for Supporting Green Development (GreenHub) in cooperation with Coca-Cola Vietnam is within the framework of  of the "World Without Waste" campaign, which is initiated by Coca-Cola Company globally to reduce the amount of plastic waste.

Social enterprise model and the journey to put women at the center

Launched in 2013, Ekocenters are kiosks supported by Coca-Cola. It is a combination of a community center and a variety store. However, the place works on solar power and can meet the most basic needs of every community around the world, even at the most remote areas.

Using solar cells, Ekocenter is able to filter and create clean water that people can use straight from the tap. Associated with cultural centers, Ekocenter also has a library or computer with Internet and wifi connection to serve the community. It is an ideal place for the locals to interact and participate in activities such as skills training, online learning, and playing sports. The roof, equipped with solar panels, will provide enough energy for daily activities at the Ekocenter.

Coca-Cola Vietnam also directs Ekocenters towards the social enterprise model operated by women from the communities where these are located. This is part of Coca-Cola's commitment to cooperation and sustainable development in the countries where it operates, and is one of the pioneering initiatives demonstrating Coca-Cola 's Corporate Social Responsibility in Vietnam.

In addition to community values, Ekocenter Dong Thap is the first to apply the social enterprise model operated by women. A part of the profits from business activities will be used to invest in the social activities of the center.

Currently, there are 12 Ekocenters built by Coca-Cola throughout Vietnam. Along with that, 2,368 women have benefited from knowledge sharing programs and business consulting support.

In addition to community values, Coca-Cola's Ekocenter in Dong Thap is one of the centers that is known for enhancing the role of local social enterprises. This is also Coca-Cola's first Ekocenter applying the social enterprise model run by women.

Accordingly, apart from creating more useful community activities for the locals across the region, Ekocenter Dong Thap also contributed to creating more resonant values ​​for female businesses and local female labour. A part of the profits generated from the social enterprises' business activities will continue to be invested in the Ekocenter's social programs, bringing sustainable values ​​to the local community in general.

“Through the social enterprise model, women in Dong Thap and women in other provinces will have more opportunities to participate in the center’s activities, thereby sharing experiences and improving their abilities and business performance, as well as having a stable income,” said Ms. Ta Thu Thuy, who was proposed by the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council (VWEC) to become the manager at Ekocenter Dong Thap.

Looking at the supply chain of Coca-Cola Vietnam, up to 91% are domestic suppliers. However, the number of women-owned businesses accounts for a very small portion of Coca-Cola's supply chain. To achieve the goal of 50% women owned business participating in the supply chain, 5 clear criteria have been put in place.

Since 2010, Coca-Cola has also ran the 5by20 initiative, which aims to empower 5 million businesswomen who are contributing to the company's global value chain by 2020. These are the women from small businesses that are partnering with Coca-Cola in more than 200 countries and regions around the world.

Those referred to by Coca-Cola's 5by20 initiative may be women in agriculture or artisans working in family manufacturing. The initiative was launched to help women overcome difficulties and barriers to succeed in business.

In Vietnam, 5by20 is concretized by the E-learning program with the goal of providing knowledge and ability to run a business, complete financial planning so that women can be confident and deploy business activities in order to improve the family economy, as well as develop the local economy and contribute to the society.

With World Without Waste (WWW) and Ekocenter, Coca-Cola has made important initiatives to solve problems for many countries around the world, including Vietnam. The image of Vietnamese women gradually changing their lives, families, and communities is a demonstration of the results achieved by WWW and Ekocenter.

Talking numbers from the American company with the aspiration to "Vietnamize"

Sharing with the press, a Coca-Cola representative proudly said: The Coca-Cola Company dedicated to Coca-Cola Vietnam the phrase "Global Brand, Local Stand" (Global brands, local knowledge) to talk about the "localization" strategy the company has been pursuing for nearly a decade.

As one of the first 12 US companies returning to Vietnam as soon as the two countries normalize relations, Coca-Cola is being "Vietnamized" to the maximum. According to the official announcement, out of 4,400 direct employees at Coca-Cola, 99.9% are Vietnamese. Even in the Executive Board at the headquarters of Coca-Cola Vietnam, only 3 positions are held by foreigners. The remaining 7 positions are undertaken by Vietnamese people.

In a more than 100 page-report recently published by PwC, which focuses on the period of 2016-2018, Coca-Cola has contributed annual VND 3,500 billion to Vietnam's GDP. In the last 3 years, Coca-Cola's revenue increased from 6,821 billion in 2015 to 8,325 billion in 2018. The company has created an average of 80,076 jobs annually, of which 2,370 jobs are generated from direct activities of the company with VND 2,400 billion in wages and benefits paid to employees. Moreover, 77,706 indirect jobs were also resulted from its supply chain.

In the same period, Coca-Cola offset 31.8 billion liters of water to the community and nature with 82,000 indirect and direct beneficiaries gaining access to tap and drinking water. VND 4.6 billion has also been invested in the flood-based livelihood project in the Mekong Delta with 105.6 ha flood storage area.

Out of 4,400 direct employees at Coca-Cola, 99.9% are Vietnamese. Even in the Executive Board at the headquarter of Coca-Cola Vietnam, only 3 positions are held by foreigners. The remaining 7 positions are undertaken by Vietnamese people.

Furthermore, US$ 1.7 million has also been invested by Coca-Cola in the Tram Chim National Park Revitalization project. In conjunction with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Coca-Cola's Monkey Cheeks project helps preserve 450 hectares of flood-based livelihood land. Since 2007, the project has helped restore 10 million liters of clean water annually and preserve the region's biodiversity, contributing to the conservation of 130 species of fish and 256 species of birds.

In the 10-year journey of bringing clean water to the community, Coca-Cola has made many achievements. It is a solid foundation for the company to continue its commitment and aim to return to the community every liter of water used to create Coca-Cola products in Vietnam.

Each of Coca-Cola's products in Vietnam does not only bear the responsibility to the community, but also bears the Vietnamese people's impression. It can be considered as a favor that Coca-Cola has one of the fastest growing markets of the group on a global scale.

Coca-Cola factories in Vietnam are always equipped with the best technology. Many of Coca-Cola's latest products are also brought to Vietnam market first. Numerous products are also researched and developed specifically for the Vietnam market.

Nutiboost fruit milk is one such example. Being introduced into Vietnam very early, this product quickly dominated the market and has high sales. Thanks to the success in the Vietnam market, Coca-Cola has brought Nutiboost around the world.

Meanwhile, new products such as Coca-Cola zero sugar, and the Coca-Cola product which have been proven to absorb fat and have been clinically certified according to Fosu standards of Japan were also brought to the Vietnam market. A new line of drinks, expected to meet Vietnamese tastes, will also be launched responding to market demand. Prior to that, nearly 50% of Coca-Cola's product portfolio on the market was developed based on Vietnamese consumers’ tastes.