Cola-Cola looks beyond water targets to wider policy challenge

Coca-Cola's director of global water stewardship Greg Koch has revealed that policy engagement is the fastest growing area of the company's work on water as he called for greater government intervention on the issue.

Speaking at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies last week, Koch said that while Cola-Cola was confident of meeting its goal to become water neutral by 2020, the bigger challenge for the company was around influencing collective action and public policy.

“Us meeting our goals isn’t going to solve the water crises that exist in all these places … you may have made your impact sustainable or positive, but that hasn’t mitigated the overall stress in a given watershed,” he argued.

“The big challenge will be how to build a consensus from a broader set of actors, industry as well as government and society to amplify the work we are doing.”

Calling water the “ultimate public good” in terms of how it flows through economies and societies, Koch said it was government who ultimately “need to step in and set policy and then enforce it”.

He added that the wider stakeholder engagement work Cola-Cola is doing in water stewardship was very much tied into a sense of having an “emotional license to operate” as a leading multi-national, given how connected societies are to this essential resource.

“That social acceptance of our use of water and the political will to support it [is] wrapped up in that emotional license,” he told delegates.

Koch also revealed that globally, Coca-Cola is currently replenishing 52% of the total amount of water used in producing its beverages, returning it to nature where sourced from areas of high water stress. It aims to achieve a 100% replenishment rate by 2020.

He said the challenge now for the company was replicating its work on water stewardship, both within its internal operations and upstream in the supply chain, on a much wider scale.

“We have to extend that response to the watersheds we share, to the communities we are a part of, and ultimately on a broader stage, at a policy level, a general education and awareness level.”

Maxine Perella

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