We’re proud of our commitment to bringing equal opportunities to our disabled colleagues across the world. A commitment that didn’t waver during the struggles of the pandemic. We’re not saying we’re perfect. There’s a lot more we can do to be the effortlessly inclusive business we strive to be. And it’s people like Mo who will push us to improve. He questions our operations, demands advancement without hesitation and sparks new possibilities – from our customers stores to our warehouses.
Mo is a refreshing inspiration to us, and to many outside the CCEP world. He has paraplegia, which came about after complications from heart surgery when he was six weeks old. He’s endured his fair share of struggles. But he remains ambitious, determined and focused on tomorrow.
At school, he was eager to progress and made it onto a BTEC course in IT. However, halfway through the course, he had to drop out because of ill health. Unfortunately, he was then unemployed for 18 years.
“I was constantly being told no, being made to feel useless,” says Mo. “It was so disempowering, and I plunged into bouts of deep depression. During my worst periods, I had suicidal thoughts.”
Four years ago, Mo was matched with charity employment adviser, Dawn. “Dawn listened to me and gave me belief in myself,” he remembers. “ For so long I’d felt I had nothing to offer the world. Then it all changed. People needed my help – and my confidence soared.”
Dawn built up Mo‘s confidence, reworking his CV, applying for government grants on his behalf, helping him source a suit to wear to interviews, and enrolling him in educational courses. “That was good, and I began getting responses to applications,” Mo recalls. “But at the interview, recruiters saw I was in a wheelchair and that was the end of it.”
Until, in 2018, Mo was contacted by one of our managers at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, who thought he might be a fit for a merchandising position – visiting stores and checking that our products are displayed correctly.
“I had a telephone interview first and held back on the fact that I’m a wheelchair user. I think the hiring manager was a bit shocked when I arrived at the face-to-face interview,” Mo says. “But she was upfront and asked me the question interviewers usually shy away from: ‘How, physically, would you manage this job?’. I wasn’t offended. It’s a fair question. The job involves stocking shelves and I couldn’t reach the top ones. After chatting to various people, she called and said the job could be adapted to fit around me. My first ever job offer – I was so emotional I burst into tears. Then I called Dawn to thank her.”
Mo loved the job and his top shelves were stocked by the friends he made in the eight stores in his area. He also became an agent for change on a national level, making a real difference for other disabled candidates.
He adds: “Coca-Cola Europacific Partners were always willing to listen to me. I never felt shy about raising issues. And more than just listening, they acted. I told them they needed to do an audit on how accessible their workplaces are for disabled people and it happened. Thanks to that audit, hearing loops and automatic doors will be installed at our site in Edmonton.”
Nick Forkin, our senior business partner, says: “Mo has challenged us all to reconsider how we view disability. His honesty and open-minded attitude have helped us become a more disability-friendly organisation, and have encouraged his colleagues and leaders to rethink how we look at inclusivity.”
Mo is now on three of our disability steering groups. And last month he began a two-year apprenticeship, combining his job with studies (through the University of Lincoln) in health and safety at our Edmonton factory, leading to a role as quality, environment, safety and health (QESH) coordinator.
“QESH is where change can be created for people with disabilities, and I’ll be right at the heart of that,” Mo says. “I feel like a valued member of society now, which for years seemed impossible. Before this job, I was surviving. Now, I’m finally getting to live.”