Coca-Cola targets sustainability from all angles


Coca Cola is an iconic brand – a well-known taste in a well-known bottle. But when The Coca-Cola Co. aims to change the standards of operation, it is not only thinking of its flagship drink and all its variations, but of a complete range of waters, sparkling drinks, hydration and sports, dairy and vegetable drinks. based on drinks, juices, coffees, teas…

“We have to consider all of this when developing a sustainability plan,” said Cloeann Durham, vice president of quality, safety and environment for the North Business Unit. -American Coca-Cola. She was speaking to the public at ISBT BevTech meeting in Frisco, Texas. Although Coca-Cola’s brands are positioned to grow, sustainability is equally important, she noted. “Seeing volume growth is great. But seeing volume growth without sustainability, it can overwhelm you very quickly.”

Nor are sustainability priorities themselves a shortlist: helping solve the global packaging waste crisis, reducing carbon footprint through science-based targets while building resilience to current climate events. and future, increasing water security for operations, protecting communities and nature, reducing added sugar in the wallet while providing consumers with more choice and smaller packaging options, developing a chain of sourcing more sustainably, advancing women and diversity and supporting human rights.

Coca-Cola has met several of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals and is working on plans that include 2025 packaging goals, a 2030 climate goal, a new 2030 water strategy and a streamlined global beverage portfolio. In all of this, support from the top has been vital. “We have commitment at the highest level of our business,” said Durham, naming James Quincey, chairman and chief executive.

Transparency for consumers

Transparency — publicly announced sustainability goals as well as accountability for those results — has been instrumental in Coca-Cola’s continuous improvement, Durham noted. The beverage industry has evolved considerably over the years. It is no longer enough to create a wellness TV ad to convince consumers. “Data is all you really need to tell your story,” she says of today’s expectations. “Scientific targeting offers a different level of transparency.”

Coca-Cola’s sustainable business priorities cover a wide range, but Durham has dipped a bit deeper in several areas. A major effort is its World Without Waste initiative, which focuses primarily on packaging and how to drive a circular economy to help reduce the carbon footprint of that packaging.

Part of the initiative focuses on bottle design. Coca-Cola aims to make 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2025 and to use at least 50% recycled materials in its packaging by 2030. The label is an important part of this discussion, commented Durham, as not all labels are recyclable. To date, 90% of the company’s packaging is recyclable worldwide and 23% of recycled materials are used. About 30 markets offer at least one brand in 100% recycled PET packaging, and four markets use 100% recycled PET for their entire plastic packaging portfolio, she added.

The company also has a new brand reuse target: by 2030, the goal is for at least 25% of its beverages globally by volume to be sold in refillable or returnable glass or plastic bottles. or in dispensing fountains with reusable packaging.

Another step in this initiative is focused on the recycling efforts themselves. Much of that hinges on educating consumers on how to recycle, which is no easy task when the situation in the United States, for example, is so fluid in all 50 states. “I go from town to town, within 5 miles of each other, and the recycling campaign is so different,” Durham commented.

By 2030, Coca-Cola aims to collect and recycle one bottle or can for every product sold. So far, 61% of cans or equivalent bottles the company introduced to the market in 2021 have been refilled, collected or recycled.

Well aware of the direct impact of climate change on its operations around the world, Coca-Cola aims to reduce absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2030. This is where targeting science really comes into play, and there’s been a big shift in how the industry now talks about its climate goals, Durham said. “To be really effective, we need to measure differently,” she said. “Science-based targeting really has to open you up to a vast new metric. It takes so many coins from all of your partners.

Protect water resources

Just as Coca-Cola aims to reduce its carbon footprint, it also strives to reduce its water footprint. That’s a big deal for a company whose products are so largely water-based. The 2030 Water Security Strategy aims to increase water security through a contextual approach to replenishing water resources, promoting smart water policies and sustainable use. responsible for water in all operations and the supply chain.

Watch a Take 5 video about this and other presentations at ISBT BevTech meeting in Frisco, Texas.

A big part of that is improved farm management, as 92% of Coca-Cola’s blue water use – the surface and ground water consumed as a result of producing the products – comes from its agricultural supply chain. Working to develop a more sustainable supply chain, 58% of Coca-Cola’s priority ingredient volume came from sustainable sources in 2021. The ultimate goal is 100%.

“We have to make sure we don’t negatively affect the system,” Durham said. “We are on track to be 100%. I feel positive about it, but the conversations need to be ongoing.

The industry is fighting an uphill battle against past complacency. “We are so late, friends. We had opportunities to innovate, and we didn’t take them because it didn’t seem necessary,” she said. “We need to make sure we get ahead of these issues so we don’t negatively impact sustainability.”

Coca-Cola is working on these initiatives with its nearly 225 bottling partners in more than 200 countries and territories. Although the beverage giant has vast resources for these kinds of sustainability efforts, and tackling such global issues can seem overwhelming to many, Durham urged members of the public to think differently. “Don’t pay so much attention to the numbers, but how you participate,” she said, adding, “We are all the engine of the industry. How can we do this together? »


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