While most of Coca-Cola Co.‘s drinks are made in the markets where they’re consumed, the Atlanta-based beverage giant is increasingly exporting a key ingredient in its global success strategy: people. 

China is Coke’s No. 3 consumption market after the United States and Mexico, but the Asian giant is also becoming an important part of Coke’s human supply chain of 770,000 employees, a big change from two decades ago, Coke Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent said at the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, China, June 6.  

“When we operate in 207 markets we see every one of those markets, because we actually operate factories in those markets. We don’t just ship product with containers.  We hire people locally, train people locally,” Mr. Kent said.

“We also see every one of those countries as potential talent export countries, and we export talent. We’ve exported talent from China. We have a Coca-Cola leadership academy in China that trains over seven-and-a-half thousand people every year.”

The company’s experience in China, where it has 50,000 workers and 42 plants, illustrates that its workforce has become more mobile as its cross-cultural literacy has grown, Mr. Kent said. 

“People are willing to move everywhere. I think we expect of our leaders to be as comfortable in Munich as in Mumbai, and they need to really be able to understand different cultures, understand different languages, be comfortable everywhere they operate. And that’s really the thing that’s changed.”

This is even reflected in the executive suites on North Avenue in Atlanta, he said. 

“Twenty years ago we had maybe about 10 nationalities represented at our headquarters in Atlanta. Today that number is over 70 – seven zero – nationalities in management,” Mr. Kent said.

Speaking on a panel with JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and Lenovo Group Ltd. Chairman and CEO Yuanqing Yang, Mr. Kent added that it’s equally important for brands to use new media to communicate with consumers, allowing them to feel a part of the company’s mission. 

He said that global corporations have a responsibility to be part of the “golden triangle”, partnering with governments and non-governmental organizations to tackle international issues. He gave the example of Coke’s 5 by 20 initiative, which aims to provide micro loans for 5 million female entrepreneurs by 2020. 

“We can’t solve the world’s youth unemployment problem alone. We can’t solve the woman gender equality problem alone. We can’t solve many of the issues in the world alone, and that’s what happens more and more in the world. Partnerships between public and private and semi-private NGOs that are really critical to what we all want to achieve that is business with a purpose,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. 

For the full transcript, click here

For more on the forum, visit http://www.fortuneconferences.com/global-forum-2013

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...