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World Wildlife Fund, Coca-Cola Put Partnership in Action through Internships with University of Michigan’s Erb Institute

Program provides opportunities to work on freshwater conservation initiatives

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan today announced that The Coca-Cola Company and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are sponsoring a new joint internship program. This innovative program will connect Erb Institute MBA/MS candidates with business and nonprofit thought leaders to collaboratively develop solutions to the challenge of preserving clean water for future generations.

Born from a seminal partnership between Coca-Cola and WWF, the program is focused on supply-chain conservation efforts that take into account production patterns in order to develop innovative solutions for freshwater conservation. Through dialogue begun at a University of Michigan conference on “Bottom of the Pyramid” (BoP) issues, which have a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest people, the internship program emerged as a perfect opportunity to further the shared vision of this public-private partnership.

“In recent years, Coca-Cola has strengthened its relationships with leading non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as World Wildlife Fund because we recognize that working toward a sustainable future makes not just good eco-sense but good business sense,” said Daniel Vermeer, director of sustainable value chain for The Coca-Cola Company. “Through this internship program with the Erb Institute, we are helping to shape businesses’ environmental practices by fostering new thinking about how to ensure the health and beauty of our most precious natural resource: water.”

“Ten years ago, corporate-NGO partnerships like this were in their infancy. Now, we realize the importance of influencing not just world leaders who make policies, but the business leaders that make an impact on peoples’ daily lives,” said Shaun Martin, director of conservation leadership at the World Wildlife Fund. “We are delighted to work with Coca-Cola to enable our future business leaders, through the Erb Institute, to explore ways to preserve the world’s natural wealth while ensuring sustainable economic growth.”

Building on the success of a joint internship Erb launched last summer with the Dow Chemical Company and Environmental Defense Fund, the Coca-Cola/WWF program reflects a growing urgency for corporations to work in concert with environmental organizations to create innovative approaches to reducing the environmental footprint of their businesses. During the 12-week summer internships, two Erb students will work closely with leaders at both organizations to assess and analyze the ecological impact of the global commodity supply chain.

Liz Abbett and Matthew McMurtry, MBA/MS candidates at the Erb Institute, were selected for the inaugural Coca-Cola/World Wildlife Fund joint internship program. They will analyze past, current, and future trends in global commodity production and subsequent impacts on the environment, commodity prices, and business procurement practices. The interns will then help construct business cases for sourcing supply chain products from producers who employ best-in-class management practices.

"In the early days of the environmental movement, environmental NGOs fought to regulate corporations or bring lawsuits against them," remarked Thomas P. Lyon, U-M professor and director of the Erb Institute. "Today, they are more likely to work directly with companies to create markets that demand environmental quality. This internship gives our students a remarkable opportunity to learn about this new form of collaboration directly, by playing an active role in it."