Coca-Cola’s world without waste and VW’s EV investment: The sustainability success stories of the week

This weekly round-up explores how businesses across the world are ramping up efforts across all areas of sustainable development

Published every week, this series charts how businesses, city leaders and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, mobility, built environment and business leadership. 

From a partnership aimed at spurring corporate renewable energy purchases, to Volkswagen’s $800m (£618m) investment in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, each of these projects and initiatives is empowering businesses, local authorities and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.

ENERGY: Big-name American brands jointly sign 42.5MW renewables deal

Success stories around clean energy made headlines on numerous occasions this week, including a report predicting that renewables will overtake fossil fuels as the UK’s dominant electricity source next year and confirmation that a new tidal stream turbine will be built in Scotland.

Meanwhile, in the US, Gap, Bloomberg, Cox, Workday and Salesforce have teamed up to jointly sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) deal enabling them to each purchase a portion of a new solar project in North Carolina. The five businesses, which are calling themselves the Corporate Renewable Aggregation Group, will each own a part of developer BayWa’s 100MW solar farm in the Rocky Mountains, which is due to be completed later this year. The Group was advised by the Business Council on Climate Change and the Business Renewables Centre throughout the process.

“This transaction is a great example of a group sharing best practices, working together and showing the benefit that cross-firm collaboration can have,” Bloomberg’s head of sustainable business operations Michael Barry said. “It also serves as an example to developers that a market exists for these projects.”

RESOURCES: Coca-Cola crowdsources ideas to create a ‘world without waste’

It’s been a busy seven days at the edie office in terms of resource efficiency and waste management news, with more than 30 businesses posting commitments as part of our Mission Possible Plastics Hub campaign. Launched on Tuesday (15 January), this ongoing content-driven campaign will support sustainability and resource efficiency professionals on our collective mission to eliminate single-use plastics.

Indeed, there have been several success stories in this space over the past week, from Marks & Spencer’s plastic produce bag phase-out, to the creation of a new corporate alliance against plastic pollution. Elsewhere, Coca-Cola also posted an update on its plan to collect and recycle one can or bottle for each one it produces globally, as part of its ambition to create a ‘world without waste’.

The global beverage firm this week brought a team of millennials into its board-level sustainability discussions for the first time, in a bid to incorporate young people’s ideas for plastic reduction and boosting recycling rates into its strategy. Discussions ranged from local and national waste management policies to consumer engagement and the importance of social media in driving behaviour change. The five speakers were sourced from NGO One Young World’s team of environmental experts, with Coca-Cola set to invite more speakers to the table in the coming months.

“The experience made me realize that we need to be the ones to initiate the change we want to see at Coca-Cola – or in the world – because no one else is going to do it for us,” One Young World member Tevin Govender said.

MOBILITY: VW invests $800m in US-based EV production lines

Just days after it launched a new company focusing on EV charging solutions and renewable energy offerings, German carmaker VW this week confirmed plans to invest $800m (£618m) in an expansion project at its Chattanooga factory in Tennessee.

The expansion will enable the plant to be retrofitted with EV production lines for the first time, with the first fully electric vehicles set to roll out of the facility in 2022. The first EVs to be made at the plant will be ID CROZZ SUVs, which are fully electric and will be launched in 2022. The model is one of 20 fully-electric vehicles which VW has committed to launching by 2030 as part of its EV strategy.

“The US is one of the most important locations for us and producing electric cars in Chattanooga is a key part of our growth strategy in North America,” VW’s chief executive Herbert Diess said. “We’re known as ‘the people’s car’ for a reason, and our EVs will build on that tradition.”

In total, VW is planning to invest $10.3bn (£7.9bn) in electric mobility by 2030, with similar factory expansions planned for Germany, China and the Czech Republic.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Environmental sustainability becoming top priority for facility managers, study finds

In this part of our weekly roundup, the edie editorial team tends to showcase a particularly innovative green building of some kind – like Sweden’s famous ICEHOTEL or innovative, off-grid ‘microhomes’. This week, however, we are turning to a new study from the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM), which concludes that sustainability is becoming a key part of the day-to-day job of most facility managers in the UK.

Drawing on the expertise of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), IWFM surveyed representatives from 242 businesses across a range of sectors to gauge their involvement with energy saving, resource efficiency and water reduction schemes. Overall, 89% said environmental sustainability was an important part of their job, and of their company’s ethos, while 42% said they had carried out more tenders with sustainability criteria over in 2018 than in 2017.

Moreover, more than half of survey respondents said their companies had set key KPIs related to sustainability in some shape or form, with waste management, carbon reduction and energy efficiency cited most commonly.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: Bristol Water launches flagship ‘social contract’

In a bid to drive positive and social change beyond its own operations, water utility firm Bristol Water this week published what it claims is the first “social contract” to be signed by a UK-based business.

Published after a year of discussions with key stakeholders across the West of England, the contract outlines the firm’s ambition to have a ‘net-positive‘ impact on the communities in which it operates and includes a framework to help consumers hold the business to account over decisions which could have adverse impacts.

Bristol Water claims the contract will help it to go “way beyond” the basic requirement of competitive markets, regulation, legislation and corporate social responsibility, ensuring that sustainability is a key part of all board-level discussions.

“We will be working with others to do a whole range of things – including making water more publicly available in communities, inspiring and educating the next generation, putting leisure opportunities at the heart of water, protecting eels, combining resources with other local organisations and amplifying resource efficiency messages,” Bristol Water’s chief executive Mel Karam said.

Sarah George

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