BC Students Give Their ‘Two Cents’ In Coke’s ‘Project Ripple’

Two pennies: a cheap investment matched cent-for-cent in a cause that makes “sense” within the greater context of Boston College’s Jesuit mission­—helping secure clean water, strengthen women’s rights, and improve living conditions in the developing world through the purchase of Coke products.

Spanning 129 years of business, the Coca-Cola Company currently sells products in over 200 countries as the world’s largest beverage company, is Forbes’ No. 4 most valuable brand, replenishes an estimated 94 percent of its sales volume as of 2014, and has recently launched “Project Ripple,” whereby the organization endeavors to inspire community well-being through university crowdsourcing—a global campaign that has made its way to BC.

In collaboration with Coca-Cola Company’s 2013 EKOCENTER initiative—a social enterprising program through which the company places modular kiosks in underserved communities worldwide to promote and prioritize well-being, women, and water based upon the wants and needs of individual locations—Coke introduced its “Project Ripple” campaign this September.

“We’re working with a variety of partners, local NGOs, and government, and we’re trying to make these kiosks help these communities grow … by providing access to Internet, power, electricity, and access to safe drinking water,” said Stephanie Rose, a Coca-Cola Global Public Affairs and Communications correspondent and BC ’11. “In order to grow it and sustain it and keep it running on its own, you need [funding] … and so that’s how we came up with this [Project Ripple] model.”

Striving to involve millennials in its larger movement toward global betterment and empowerment, Coca-Cola devised this crowdsourcing model wherein university students, faculty, and consumers pay two cents more per Coke product—fountain and beverage. By doing so, they support EKOCENTER in one of three ways: safe drinking water initiatives, female economic empowerment, or projects enhancing community well-being. At the conclusion of Project Ripple’s duration on individual campuses, Coca-Cola matches the overall sum raised by BC—up to a $5,000 corporate contribution—and each university determines to which cause its donation will go.

Coca-Cola came to the University through BC Dining Services with the proposal in the summer of 2015—and thus far, BC is only the second university to participate in Project Ripple after Seton Hall.

“What I liked about this EKOCENTER drive is that, as I said, they’re trying to make things better for our global neighbors,” said Megan O’Neill, associate director of operations within BC Dining. “And BC’s mission, right, is all about social justice and how do we do things for others, so they really paired nicely together. So when they reached out … I was like, ‘Yeah, sign me up! How do we do it?’ … Just by throwing in 2 cents, you’re rippling the effect across and helping our global neighbors.”

Having begun at the start of this semester and located within the Rat, the initiative will conclude on Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, with students voting to determine which of the three initiatives will receive the University’s contribution. “I don’t want Dining to make the decision—it’s not our money,” O’Neill said. BC Dining interns are currently determining how best to promote awareness and gauge public opinion regarding the three different causes, but will likely use social media to poll the student body.

“For me, I think that safe drinking water is a really big one.” O’Neill said. “But, you can’t go wrong in any of them.”

The relationship between BC and Coca-Cola spans a number of years, with an exclusive contract currently existing between the BC Dining and Coke, and Coca-Cola advertisements targeting students at the University dating back to the early 20th century.

“We are a Coke school, we do a lot of partnerships with Coca-Cola,” O’Neill said. “I work closely with Coca-Cola in the dining halls, in the mini-marts, in all those places, to partner together, figure out what we can do the best for the students.”

Coca-Cola’s presence on campus extends beyond Dining Services, and it is particularly notable at Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum, where, in addition to sponsoring BC Athletics, Coke has worked with the University to improve upon recycling and sustainability efforts.

“I also work with a lot of student groups—in terms of EcoPledge and Real Food,” O’Neill said. “One of the things we always hear about is ‘Coke is a bad company. It’s a big company, they don’t take care of the little people.’ Which really isn’t true, and Coke has been working really hard over the last few years to improve that image—probably over the last 10 years. Part of this initiative is how EKOCENTER got created [within the] sustainability arm of Coca-Cola.”

Led by Sustainability Program Director Robert Pion, the Greening Eagles Game Day Ambassador Program was recently launched by the University—and is sponsored by Athletics, Facilities Services, and the Sustainability Office—as a means to reach its 50-percent recycling rate goal for the 2015 football season.

The hospitality and sustainability program, which encourages student, faculty, and staff participation, allows individuals a free ticket into home football games as well as a voucher for Dining Services BBQ in exchange for volunteering prior to the start of the game.

In recognizing BC’s on-campus endeavors to improve upon its recycling rate, Coca-Cola has bought more recycling bins to be placed inside and near Athletics facilities.

“They came to us and said, ‘Gee, your recycling numbers aren’t very good—how can we help with that?’” O’Neill said. The company has also been steadily replacing its on-campus vending machines over the last couple years with low-energy, more efficient and sustainable models.

“It’s about helping students see that Coke is not just out there to make a penny,” O’Neill said. Indeed, Coca-Cola is out there to make two pennies—and to give BC students the opportunity to put their two cents toward the cause of their choice.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic

Maddie Phelps

Learn More →