Coca-Cola vows to address water use

Soft drink giant Coca-Cola has teamed up with a leading conservation group in an effort to reduce the impact of its bottling plants on water resources, particularly in the developing world.

The multinational has come under fire in recent years, facing accusations that its plants have drained the aquifer of vital water and polluted what has remained.

High-profile campaigns have been staged against the company’s activities in India and part of South America and several college campuses in the USA have banned the sale of its products on their premises.

The company has sought to defend its reputation on its regional websites but has now taken its corporate social responsibility a step further by enlisting WWF to help draw up plans to allow it to reduce water use, recycling water where possible and replace what it takes from the water table.

In 2006, The Coca-Cola Company and its franchised bottlers used approximately 290bn litres of water for beverage production.

Of that amount, approximately 114bn litres made it into drinks bottles and another 176bn litres were used in manufacturing processes such as rinsing, cleaning, heating and cooling.

Now the company has announced it will spend $20m on projects which will conserve freshwater supplies in the basins of seven rivers around the world, more efficient water management and reducing its carbon footprint.

Coca-Cola will set specific water efficiency targets for global operations by 2008 to be the most efficient user of water within peer companies and, by 2010, ensure that all wastewater leaves its plants in a state that will ‘support aquatic life and agriculture’, even where local regulations do not require wastewater to meet these standards.

It will also invest in watershed protection, community water access, rain water harvesting, reforestation and agricultural water efficiency schemes.

“We are focusing on water because this is where The Coca-Cola Company can have a real and positive impact,” said E Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive of the company.

“Our goal is to replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production. For us that means reducing the amount of water used to produce our beverages, recycling water used for manufacturing processes so it can be returned safely to the environment, and replenishing water in communities and nature through locally relevant projects.”

James Leape, director general of WWF International, said: “The Coca-Cola Company is answering the call to help solve the global freshwater crisis.

“The company is stepping into new and uncharted territory, and we look forward to working together to meet the bold commitments they have made to water stewardship.”

Sam Bond

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