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Empowering Japan's Next Generation of Sustainable Growth Leaders with The Coca-Cola Foundation and Global Shapers

Coca-Cola is the Strategic Partner of the Global Shapers Community, organized by the World Economic Forum, an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation. Global Shapers is a network of Hubs developed and led by young people who are exceptional in their potential, their achievement and their drive to make a contribution to their communities. The Global Shapers Community is one of several multi-stakeholder communities at the World Economic Forum.

The 21st century business theme that we, as Coca-Cola, place most emphasis on is “sustainability.” We look at sustainability from various angles. First, it entails maintaining both physical and mental health and well-being. We are committed to enriching people’s lives through our beverage by showcasing happy scenes and by supporting healthy lifestyles. Second, it means that the societies and communities in which we operate are sustainable. We also support the financial independence and empowerment of women around the world. 

Lastly, our sustainability efforts focus on the global environment, especially on achieving 100% water circulation. At Coca-Cola, water is considered the most important resource. Thus, we create the future with people around the world by providing financial assistance to many sustainability initiatives via our foundation.

In Japan, we gave a grant to the Tokyo hub of Global Shapers Community to support their activities and the next generation leaders in rural regions of Japan, who make commitments for the sustainable development of those communities.

The Tokyo hub shapers first conducted “Shapers Camp 2014” in August, together with the Osaka hub shapers, in order to hear directly from high school and college students about the kinds of environments they are surrounded by. These students spent one week together in an abolished school in the Kumano region of Wakayama Prefecture, an area designated as a World Heritage site. The students from all over Japan and the shapers from Tokyo and Osaka conducted in-depth discussions, ate and socialized together, and mimicked a small start-up experience by setting up a booth at a summer festival in the community.

According to the student participants, by taking part in this program and sharing their honest concerns about their future careers and life paths with the shapers, the students were able to find new possibilities in diverse ways of living, opportunities to become entrepreneurs and the courage to take chances. This camp also helped the Tokyo hub shapers realize the need for a program to support students’ growth through a trial and error process, which led to the birth of the Re-Generate Japan project. 

Re-Generate Japan Project

The Tokyo hub initiated the “Re-Generate Japan” project in efforts to support students and create new jobs in the country’s rural areas. “GSC Tokyo Open Forum 2014” was held in Tokyo in December 2014 as the kick-off event for the project.

The main content of the forum included panel discussions among leaders from various industries, mainly from the IT and Education sectors. Of the 600 diverse students who applied for the forum -- students with interests in becoming entrepreneurs who can contribute to their own communities while also thinking seriously about their own career paths -- 130  were selected to take part in the event. There were also students who took part in the Shapers camp and applied again to make a further leap forward. Fifteen panelists, including shapers, shared their powerful messages with these students who came from all over Japan, from Okinawa to Hokkaido. 

According to the event's keynote speaker Mr. Toru Shimada, Executive Vice President and Representative Director of Rakuten, “leadership is not only about standing at the top – it is about coming up with your own ideas, making your own decisions and taking actions, no matter which position or role you are in.”

Mr. Ryo Umezawa, President & CEO of Hailo Inc., moderated the entrepreneurship session and described his enthusiasm for the project, “Through internships I have been involved in starting up different businesses and projects ever since I was a college student. The fact that I have been able to embark upon many challenges from my young years has given me an extremely valuable experience, and I want to support the students wholeheartedly so that they can achieve new and big goals through this Re-Generate Japan project.” 

Participants expressed their admiration for the speakers, including one student who said, “I admire the panelists who all have strong wills and wishes inside themselves. I also want to be someone who can shine like them.” Another student said, “I am determined to take actions for Tohoku by strengthening my execution ability while giving important consideration to my own originality.”  

Start-Up Challenge Camp

In March 2015, the Re-Generate Japan project held “Start-Up Challenge Camp 2015.” The four-day event invited 14 next-generation leaders who are striving to take actions to improve the sustainability of local communities. These leaders were mainly students from local regions engaged in practical entrepreneurship programs. The camp aimed to develop business plans with the help of global shapers and other highly-experience leaders from IT and education sectors, who provided case studies for a model project on education start-up and also helped brush up students’ business plans.

On the final day, the students presented their plans to fives judges. Three presentations were selected: “Global Expansion of Denim Made in Okayama-Prefecture”, “Digital Magazine of Sweets and Diet” and “Programming Education Business.”

Re-Generate will provide incubation support for the four students who presented these three plans, including continuous mentoring for the next six months and summer internship opportunities. 

As a result of this incubation program, we aim to kick-off new businesses by way of these next-generation young entrepreneurs in November 2015 . Of course that is only the starting point – we will continue to support them so that they can further grow via trial and error. 

We have no doubt that the network developed through this four-day camp will be valuable for the rest of the participants as well. And moving forward, it will challenge attendees to ask: Is your daily life sustainable for you? Is your community sustainable? There are various issues in the world, but what kind of impact do they have on the sustainability of our mother earth?

If the business you are intend to start is truly valuable for the sustainability of this planet, then your business will inevitably become more sustainable. This is an area where your infinite imagination is especially cherished. 

The Re-Generate Japan project will continue to support students to become next-generation leaders who strengthen the sustainability of communities in Japan through practical start-up programs.

Through Re-Generate Japan project, Coca-Cola supports Japan’s youths who will continue to grow as leaders and who will build our tomorrow.