BEVERLY HILLS: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, believes that tapping into the rising consumer passion for issues like sustainability can give brands "meaning" and help companies connect with millennials.

Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer of The Coca-Cola Company, talked about this subject at the Transformation 2014 conference organised by the 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies).

She told delegates that shoppers are increasingly interested in how brands are relevant to their own passions. As popular habits and attitudes change, businesses like Coca-Cola must adapt, too.

"We're a consumer-driven company," Perez said. (For more, including how agencies can help clients in the sustainability space, read Warc's exclusive report: Coke and sustainability: How the right thing to do became the smart thing to do.)

More specifically, meeting the needs of millennials – an audience with rapidly growing spending power – is of primary importance.

"We know that today's generation – the millennial consumers – really care," Perez told the 4As delegates.

"They care about transparency. They want to know what's inside your brand. They want to know what your brands are doing, how you're measuring and tracking, how you're giving back."

Perez also quoted data from a study conducted by Nielsen, the research firm, last year showing that half of this demographic would pay more for a brand involved in some kind of community engagement.

That total had jumped dramatically from similar analysis conducted two years earlier, when around a quarter of Nielsen's panel agreed with this statement.

Coca-Cola has implemented a recycling programme, under the EKOCYCLE banner, which reflects the eco-friendly concerns of consumers by turning used bottles into items of clothing.

This helps the organisation serve its in-house sustainability agenda, and strengthens the connection of its brand with customers.

"It starts to give meaning to the millennial generation when you drink a Coke, recycle it and turn into something of value," said Perez. "You're actually doing some good by purchasing or drinking a Coke."

Data sourced from Warc