Coca-Cola bolsters sustainability targets for Western Europe

Coca-Cola's continental divisions have teamed up to deliver a new sustainability plan for Western Europe, with a range of targets including plans to halve direct carbon emissions and only use packaging that is recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Launched yesterday (06 November), the This is Forward plan also reiterates a plan to purchase 100% of renewable electricity by 2020 and slash emissions by 35% across the supply chain.

On packaging, there is a pledge to make sure that at least 50% of the material used for PET bottles comes from recycled plastic, more than double the figure recorded in 2016.

The strategy is the company’s first joint sustainability plan for Western Europe, put forward by Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) and the Western Europe division.

“We have listened carefully to our stakeholders, customers, employees and consumers and our joint sustainability action plan is our commitment to delivering the change they want to see,” Coca-Cola European Partners chief executive Damian Gammell said.

“It establishes how we hold ourselves accountable to each other and the outside world and how we create an environment people want to work in and where they believe in what we are doing.”

The plan includes new targets on water, most notably a pledge to replenish 100% of water used in areas of water stress, which sits next to a 20% reduction goal for water used in manufacturing.

Coca-Cola is also aiming for half of its sales to come from low or no calorie drinks, which will be facilitated by reducing the amount of sugar in its soft drinks by 10% between 2015 and 2020.

In terms of action on the supply chain, a new 2020 target is in place for 100% of all main agricultural ingredients and raw materials to come from sustainable sources.

Packaging strategy

Coca-Cola’s new plan to ensure that all of its packaging is 100% recyclable or reusable has been welcomed tentatively by campaigners concerned about marine pollution.

The world’s biggest soft drinks company does not disclose how much plastic packaging it puts into the market. But recently analysis by Greenpeace reveals what they say is an increase in production of single-use PET bottles from 2015-2016.

Only a tiny fraction of these bottles are recycled. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead, most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Amid growing concern about marine pollution and increasing evidence that plastic is finding its way into the food chain of fish and humans, CCEP announced it had changed its mind about plastic bottle deposit schemes.

The company has expressed support for a deposit scheme and told Westminster MPs a new approach was needed to improve the stalled recycling rates in the UK of 57% for PET bottles.

Stronger action plan

Commenting on today’s announcement, Greenpeace called on Coca-Cola to bring its packaging target forward ahead of the 2025 deadline.

Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Tisha Brown said: “By that time 100 million additional tonnes of plastic will have entered our oceans, and our marine ecosystems just can’t stomach anymore plastic. We welcome their commitment to collect 100% of their packaging and look forward to seeing an action plan that includes reduction alongside support for progressive legislation like deposit return schemes.

“Most importantly, there are no border controls in the ocean, and so to deal with a global problem we need to see a stronger action plan in their forthcoming global sustainability strategy.”

Sustainable packaging has been a key focus for CCEP in recent months. The company has teamed up with the University of Reading during this semester to hand out micro-chipped refillable drinks bottles to students to support a more sustainable packaging system on campus.

In July, the firm turned to stop-motion animation to launch a multi-million pound consumer awareness campaign to highlight the recyclability of its products, marking the first time the global drinks giant has issued a sustainability campaign in the UK.

George Ogleby

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