NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks group, is seeking to directly engage female consumers in emerging markets, a strategy it believes will have a meaningful business impact.

The company set a goal two years ago of helping 5m underprivileged women in developing nations secure a consistent source of income by 2020, a plan that includes running training schemes in 100 countries.

Enhancing the status held by this audience, Coca-Cola predicts, should drive economic growth, and thus the buying power of a huge tranche of potential customers.

"Unless you have a sustainable community, you can't have a business," Charlotte Oades, Coca-Cola's global director for women's economic empowerment, told Fortune.

The programmes Coca-Cola is implementing range from providing financial education to installing solar panels in stores so they can stay open later.

According to Oades, the main objective of these efforts is to make a long-term difference. "At the end of the day, if you're just writing a check, that's not sustainable," she said.

By the close of 2012, the aim is to have assisted 305,000 from 12 countries in achieving financial independence, a total that should increase dramatically as the decade progresses.

Unilever, the FMCG firm, has also pursued a similar model with Project Shakti, which it has rolled out in nations from India to Nigeria.

The possible benefits for brands result in part from the unique spending priorities of women, who reinvest 90% of their income into the family, a figure standing at between 30% and 40% for men.

Booz & Co, the consultancy, recently predicted that 865m women are due to be of working age by 2020, of which 812m will live in emerging and developing nations.

Using "conservative" estimates, it reported that if female employment rates rose to match those of men, then GDP levels would rise by 34% in Egypt and 12% in the UAE, as well as 5% in the US.

"Positive steps intended to economically empower women not only contribute to the immediate goals of mobilising the female workforce," it said in a study, "but also lead to more widespread gains for all citizens, such as economic prosperity and improvements in health, early childhood development, security, and freedom."

Data sourced from Fortune; additional content by Warc staff