Obesity is a complex, systemic challenge that affects every corner of the globe. 

According to the Red Cross, we now live in a world where more people are over-nourished than undernourished.  Moreover, the World Health Organization estimates that at least 2.7 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese, and that figure will likely increase to 3 billion by 2015.  

In Africa, a continent that has experienced more than its share of devastating famine and starvation, many nations are now wrestling with obesity. Today in South Africa, for instance, half of the adult population is said to be obese, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  In India one in five men are now overweight.  Even in China, one of the world’s healthiest nations, the rate of obesity has tripled over the past 15 years.

There are many causes and influences that factor into the global obesity epidemic, while the ultimate solution is a matter of energy balance and physical activity -- a “silver bullet” that is easier said than done. With the world continuing to grow more urban and affluent, and with lifestyles and consumer expectations continuing to change dramatically, the obesity challenge is here for the long-run. 

As a company, system and brand, Coca-Cola has a long history of stepping up to the most pressing societal, economic and environmental challenges of our times.  This week we announced a set of actions we are taking to be part of the solution to the obesity challenge in every continent, country and community we serve.

Specifically, we commit to:

1)   offer low- or no- calorie beverage options in every market.

2)   provide transparent nutrition information, featuring calories on the front of all of our packages.

3)   help get people moving by supporting physical activity programs in every country where we do business.

4)   market responsibly, including no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world.

These commitments complement ongoing efforts by our company to invest in new low- and no-calorie sweeteners, smaller package sizes for every occasion, innovations in new beverages, and more transparent communication to our consumers.

In Europe, for instance, we now offer 82 low- and no-calorie beverage options, and we were the first in our industry to begin front-of-package calorie information, back in 2006.  In Australia, Korea and Thailand, we’ve successfully introduced new 7.5 ounce mini-cans, an innovation that we will scale to other markets around the world.

To reverse the tide of obesity, it’s also going to take strong and close collaboration across the Golden Triangle of business, government and civil society.  This collaboration must be anchored in mutual trust, a common vision, a bias for action, and the highest standards of accountability.

We’ve already seen the power of the Golden Triangle at work in projects we’ve started with partners across many markets, including 88 physical activity programs in Europe that have touched 3 million people already. 

More than 2 million people have been engaged in our community walk program in 30 cities in China, and half a million students have participated in our Step With It, Singapore! Program.

In India and Pakistan, we’ve seen initial success with collaborative efforts to engage 1.5 million young people to participate in our Sprite Street Cricket tournaments.  In Turkey, 200,000 children have benefited from playground-building partnership with the National Ministry of Education.

With this week’s announcement, we are asking citizens and stakeholders to work with us, share ideas, insights and concerns, and track our progress (www.comingtogether.com).  We believe this will be another powerful step forward not just for our industry but also for society in creating a healthier and more active world. There’s much more to come.

Stay tuned!

Ahmet Bozer is the Executive Vice President and President, Coca-Cola International.