Coca-Cola to “pause” diversity initiatives after senior exec. resigns

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While Coca-Cola’s website states “Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the heart of our values and our growth strategy and play an important part in our company’s success,” this may not be the complete picture, after the company’s senior vice president and global general counsel Bradley Gayton resigned recently.

Many are speculating that Gayton’s resignation is tied to a decline in customer support for Coke, given his history of pushing for diversity initiatives at the company.

The summer of 2020 saw Coke halting advertising on social media to boycott the lack of ‘hate speech’ moderation on various platforms. 

And in 2021, CEO James Quincey and other large corporations blasted the state of Georgia for what they deemed unfair voting laws, such as voter I.D., eventually causing the Major League Baseball All-Star game to be moved out of Atlanta (Coca-Cola’s hometown) in favour of Denver, Colorado.

But perhaps the ‘boldest’ move by the former vice president was a diversity requirement for outside counsel used by Coca-Cola.

In a January 2021 letter addressed to “U.S. Law Firms Supporting The Coca-Cola Company,” Gayton required a diversity quota of 30 per cent of all billed associate and partner time to be from members of any of the following identities: “American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Women, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ+, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander and Persons with Disabilities.”

In addition, “of such amounts at least half will be from Black attorneys.”

Combined with a multi-year battle with the IRS that could see a possible $12 billion tax bill, Coke is having its worst decline in drinks sold since the 1940s.

Gayton is set to receive $12,000,000 spread out over instalments for his early resignation, including payment for a one year term as a strategic consultant.