Coping with Brexit uncertainty: an interview with Coca-Cola European Partners

Published on Thu, 19/12/2019 - 13:51

"Our people are empowered to make decisions" - why agility is at the heart of CCEP's approach to Brexit.

This article is part of the latest FERMA/AIRMIC joint Brexit Newsletter which gives risk professionals unique insight into Brexit related risks and mitigation strategies. Follow the link to read more Brexit insight. 

Agility has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent months, as experts attempt to pin down the qualities required of businesses if they wish to succeed in today's challenging environment. For many businesses, Brexit is proving the ultimate test of corporate agility, as boardrooms and risk teams grapple with the huge number of unknowns and a vast spectrum of possible outcomes and timings.

For cross-border fast moving consumer goods company (FMCG) such as Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the ability to respond and adapt is all the more important. CCEP makes, sells and distributes beverages to one million outlets across 13 countries in Western Europe, and employs over 23,000 people. Approximately 20% of its revenue comes from Great Britain.

A quick response

"As an FMCG company, decision and action are key. We're a very agile company and that has been vital with our approach to Brexit," says Huma Allana, vice president, GB Legal, at CCEP. "We moved quickly to be prepared and we monitor continuously. It's a big, high profile brand with strict quality standards so we have to be flexible and to keep our fingers on the pulse."

The organisation established a cross-functional Brexit working group after the referendum in 2016. It represents the entire breadth of the businesses and meets weekly - or as needed depending on the current environment.

Ms Allana says that having a strong information supply has been vital. "Brexit has shown that you have to take things seriously from day one. Even if the end looks very far away, you need to make sure it's on your horizon."

Empower your staff

Joerg Osterloh, director of enterprise risk management at CCEP, believes there is no substitute for having the right people in place. "The quality of people has been essential for our ability to respond to the Brexit challenges," he says. "Having the right blend of experts at an operational level is a big part of our preparedness. Our people are empowered to make decisions with the backing of the leadership. This is key to achieving an agile approach."

CCEP has dealt with the extreme uncertainty by always being prepared for the worst case scenario, he says. "You have to look at where you sit within the industry and examine the end-to-end value chain and the impact Brexit could have at each point," says Mr Osterloh.

Part of the job

As an exercise in risk management, Mr Osterloh and Ms Allana agree that dealing with Brexit is in many ways no different to other challenges: "It may be more extreme and wide reaching, but the processes and approach don't change."

There are always challenges on the horizon for any business, says Ms Allana, and you have to be ready to deal with anything. "The carbon dioxide shortage last year is an example of that which was an immediate and unexpected risk to be managed, but we had the right people and processes in place to manage it effectively."