University of South Carolina

Former Coca-Cola executive to speak at USC

Neville Isdell, former chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., believes businesses must engage with their communities to solve social challenges and ensure sustainable and profitable growth in the 21st century.

He calls it “connected capitalism,” and it will be the topic of his Oct. 8 talk at the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management’s (HRSM) Dean’s Executive Lecture Series. The program is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Russell House Ballroom, and is open to the public.

The topic of the lecture is taken from the last chapter of his book, “Inside Coca-Cola: A CEO’s Life Story of Building the World’s Most Popular Brand.”  In the book, he writes, “If the issues facing society are to be successfully addressed, a new model is required in the way governments, civil society and business work together. This will require businesses themselves to change how they relate to society in order to maintain the social license to operate. Without these changes the legitimacy of capitalism will be undermined and indeed challenged.”

Isdell’s appearance is sponsored by HRSM and USC student government.

HRSM Dean Brian Mihalik said, "Mr. Isdell is a fellow ex-rugby player as well as friend of USC and the College of HRSM. His daughter, Cara, and son-in-law, Zak, both are HRSM graduates. Further, our college believes in the principles of ‘connected capitalism’ as we try to expand our international initiatives across business sectors crucial to global economies."

Isdell worked for the soft drink giant 43 years, and led the company from 2004-2009.

During his tenure, Isdell expanded the company’s legacy as a leader in corporate responsibility. Under his direction, Coca-Cola took on the then-emerging concept of sustainability and made it a priority in the company’s culture, ensuring its role as a community-connected 21st century enterprise. 

This strategy resulted in Coca-Cola’s return to Fortune Magazine’s “World Most Admired Companies” list in 2006.  In 2009, the company moved up to the No. 12 spot in global ranking in Fortune Magazine.

A native of Ireland, Isdell joined The Coca-Cola Company’s Zambian office in 1966 and moved steadily up the ranks. In 1972, he became general manager of Coca-Cola Bottling of Johannesburg; 1980, region manager, Australia; 1981, president of the bottling joint venture between Coca-Cola and San Miguel Corporation, Philippines; 1985, president of Coca-Cola’s Central European Division; 1989, senior vice president and president of the Northeast Europe/Africa Group, leading the company’s re-entry into new markets in India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. 

In 1995, Isdell was named president of the Greater Europe Group. From 1998 to 2000, he served as chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages Plc in Great Britain. 

Isdell retired as vice-chairman of Coca-Cola HBC in 2001. In 2004, he came out of retirement and was named Coca-Cola chairman and CEO.

He chairs the Investment Climate Facility for Africa, which is a partnership between governments, private companies and development partners focused on providing tangible improvements to Africa's investment climate.

Isdell, also a member of the board of directors of General Motors and a recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award, received a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from the University of Cape Town and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Professional Management Development program.


Posted: 10/03/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/05/12 @ 12:18 PM | Permalink