Coca-Cola Takes Sustainability Efforts Outside the Plant

united states, GA, ATLANTA

Beverage giant the Coca-Cola Company is addressing supply chain issues in its efforts to improve water stewardship and environmental sustainability, looking at environmental practices amongits agricultural suppliers.

Greg Koch, director for Global Water Sustainability at Coca-Cola, told OOSKAnews that 96 percent of the company's facilities worldwide were now meeting its standards for treating wastewater to level 2 standards.

A few smaller plants "in tough places" like Congo are not yet meeting standards, "but they will come into compliance this year," said Koch.

"I wouldn't point to a bad region, because everyone is doing a good job," he added.

But "when we look at our finished product, the vast majority of the water footprint is from agriculture," Koch added. Coca-Cola is a major consumer of sweeteners, fruit and tea crops.

Greg Koch

"In the last three years, we've ramped things up more on the environmental side, taken a more holistic view of sustainability," he said.

The company "started with things more in our own control and moved out," said Koch.

He said Coke is looking at three main factors in the agricultural supply chain: efficiency of water use, although this is made difficult by the fact that most agriculture is rain-fed; runoff of surface and groundwater, where there is a big opportunity to reduce nutrients in water sources; and sustainability of water sources for irrigation.

Now, the company is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development on watershed-level projects in communities where they operate.

Last week, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), third-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world and the largest in Western Europe, released its seventh company-wide corporate social responsibility and sustainability report.The report detailers how well the bottler is doing at meeting its 37 targets, including water stewardship.

Since 2007, the company has reduced the amount of water required to make 1 liter of product to 1.43 liters, and has launched a partnership with WWF-UK and the Coca-Cola Company to improve water quality in river catchments in Southeast England.

Koch acknowledged that unlike many parts of the world where Coca-Cola has faciities, CCE had the option of using municipal treatment plants, and this played a role in reaching 100 percent compliance with Coke's corporate water treatment standards.