Coca-Cola on track to be water neutral, but carbon emissions climb

Coca-Cola is on track to balance 100% of its water use across global operations by 2020, as the company's 2013/14 Sustainability Report revealed that Coca-Cola replenished 108.5 billion litres of water last year - about 68% of its total usage.

In addition the firm improved its water efficiency by 8% compared with a 2010 baseline and is on track to save 25% by 2020.

Coca Cola also renewed water conservation commitments with WWF and the United Nation Development Programme.

Last week Pepsi reported a 20% improvement in water-use efficiency, saving 14 billion litres of water in 2013.


However Coca Cola reported missed targets regarding carbon emissions. Its stated goal was to “Grow our business, but not our carbon emissions from manufacturing, through 2015 compared with a 2004 baseline.”

However, total emissions increased 1% compared to 2012, and stand 16% higher than the 2004 baseline.

The report explained: “This upward trend in our absolute emissions is a result of the fact that we were not able to scale up our clean energy program as fast as originally intended. Moreover, our volume growth has outpaced our emission ratio improvements.”

Pepsi also reported mixed success on its energy initiatives, emitting more than four million metric tons of C02 equivalents in 2013 ‒ the same amount as 2008.


There has been relative success in sourcing sustainable packaging, with a 7% reduction, two years ahead of schedule.

The firm also recovered and recycled 43% of the bottles and cans it sold globally, putting it on track to reach a recycling target of 50% by 2015.

“Because packaging is the largest contributor to our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, our efforts in creating more sustainable packaging are expected to contribute to our overall goal of reducing the CO2 emissions associated with the “drink in your hand”, it said. Scroll down for full report.

Purpose over profit

Alongside the sustainability report, the UK bottling firm Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE) has announced a partnership with Cranfield School of Management’s Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and The Financial Times’ (FT) Remark to conduct research on the future of sustainable business.

The research reveals that current chief executives and future leaders have different opinions about what the main barriers to businesses adopting a social purpose are. Current leaders cite external factors such as government and regulation while future leaders believe that current management attitudes play a larger role.

The findings also suggest that nearly half of future leaders believe that businesses focused solely on economic value will not have a competitive advantage in the future.

They also have higher expectations of the role business should play, claiming that societal and environmental impact (80%), innovation (61%) and development of future talent (57%) will be more important indicators of business success in the years to come.

88% of chief executives and 90% of future leaders surveyed believe that businesses should have clear social purpose. However, only 19% of future leaders believe that businesses already have clear purpose, compared with 86% of current chief executives.

Benefits to businesses

There were many benefits identified by both current and future CEOs for businesses that prioritise social purpose over profit, including:

  • more engaged employees
  • increased levels of innovation
  • increased trust in the business
  • relevance to the next generation of customers and employees, ensuring business survival


The Doughty Centre’s director Professor David Grayson said: “While it’s not surprising to learn that social purpose is seen as a priority for business… By developing clearly defined strategies and identifying new, disruptive approaches now, businesses can better ensure success and relevance in the future.”

CCE’s chairman and chief executive John F. Brock said: “Today’s leaders play an essential role in integrating environmental and social issues into strategic decision making, but future generations have even higher expectations of business. It’s clear that social and environmental purpose will increase in importance in the years to come, and that collaborative innovation is the key to unlocking success.”

  2013 2014 Coca Cola Sustainability Report PDF

Brad Allen and Lois Vallely

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