Moving the sustainability agenda forward: 5 key steps for business

In January, I will be sharing the stage with a number of other sustainability professionals at edie's 2018 Sustainability Leaders Forum. The event comes at a pivotal time for our business as, this month, together with The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC), we launched our first ever joint Sustainability Action Plan for Western Europe; This Is Forward.

Moving the sustainability agenda forward: 5 key steps for business

This is Forward has been developed at an important time for both us and The Coca-Cola Company. As we adapt our drinks portfolio to changing consumer needs, we are increasingly conscious of the role that we play in people’s daily lives and want to use our business and our brands to create a positive difference. Our action plan sets out how we will support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a sustainability roadmap for the world, not just our industry, to follow.

Sustainability is at the very heart of our business strategy; it is not a tick-box exercise. It is shaping the way we do business. I’m looking forward to talking more about this at the Forum – but for now, I want to share some insights into the steps we took to build our plan.

1) Understand the size and scale of the challenge

The world is facing significant sustainability challenges – from climate change to marine litter – and the size and scale of our collective response (from business, governments and civil society) is currently insufficient. Everyone has a role to play – and understanding the size and scale of challenges we face is an important starting point. We need to be bold and ambitious to make the changes that will begin to make a positive difference.

For us, this means using the strength of our business and brands and leading the way by setting ambitious, stretch sustainability goals. We know that many of our targets won’t be easy to achieve and our success will require continued collaboration across our businesses and with many different partners across our value chain.

2) Open a dialogue with stakeholders – from across your business and community

To build an effective sustainability strategy, earning the trust of stakeholders is crucial.  Listening and talking to people that have a direct interest in your business is key to earning trust and creating an environment where people take pride in working for, and engaging with you.

To build This is Forward we spent time listening and talking to more than 100 key stakeholders – including governments, NGOs, customers and suppliers – as well as 12,000 consumers across six countries and over 1,000 employees. We asked them what they expect of us and the role they expect us to play as an industry leader. The response was clear. They want us to develop strong commitments to reduce the sugar and calories in our products, make our packaging as sustainable as possible and contribute in a meaningful way to the communities in which we operate. We’re acting on this feedback and taking steps to ensure we have a positive impact wherever we sell our drinks.

3) Focus on the areas which are most material to your business

To ensure your business can have the biggest possible impact, you need to understand and prioritise the things that matter most to you and your stakeholders. The world is constantly evolving – and as people’s tastes, lifestyles and shopping habits change – we know we must change too.

This is Forward is a response to these changes and the global challenges that face our communities, our society and our business. We’ve set out three priority areas of action:

  • We know that people are concerned about health, so we will offer consumers an even greater choice of drinks with reduced sugar.
  • Our packaging is a valuable resource, so we’ll ensure that all of our packaging is 100% recyclable and we’ll aim to collect 100% of our packaging so that it doesn’t end up as litter or in the oceans. We are also going to increase the use of recycled plastic (rPET) for our PET bottles to at least 50%; doubling our current rPET usage.
  • We know that a business of our size and scale can make a difference to the communities in which we operate, so we are committed to being a force for good by championing inclusion and economic development in society.

These priorities are underpinned by three supporting actions that are core to our business operations: climate, water and supply chain. You can read more about our six action areas – and our 21 sustainability goals here.

4) Embed the plan across your entire business and supply chain

The businesses that are able to make the biggest difference when it comes to sustainability are the ones that make it a central part of their operating model. At Coca-Cola, we have put sustainability, in its broadest sense, at the heart of the business. From our earliest days, we established strong fundamentals about how we hold ourselves accountable to each other and to the outside world and how we create an environment where people want to work for us and believe in what we are doing.

Often, the greatest environmental impacts occur outside of our own businesses and in our value chains. It’s therefore essential to collaborate with suppliers and seek to improve the performance of your supply chain, as well as your own. As part of the This is Forward, we have set ambitious carbon reduction targets – for both our own business and our value chain – that are validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

At CCEP, sustainability is embedded in, and supported by, our procurement strategy, processes and supplier relationships and is enhanced by joint projects with suppliers in areas such as sustainable agriculture, packaging and transportation.

Like other bottlers within the Coca-Cola system we expect our suppliers to follow our Supplier Guiding Principles (SGPs) which set out the minimum requirements we expect in areas such as workplace policies and practices, health and safety, human rights, environmental protection and business integrity. Our procurement teams have a central role to play in making our value chain more sustainable, working directly with suppliers to identify opportunities for improvement and build long-term relationships so that we can work towards common objectives.

5) Make sustainability personal

Ultimately, any business is only as good as its workforce and the passion and commitment of our employees has played a huge role in the progress that we have made so far. Engaging employees in the long-term sustainability commitments of a business can be challenging – but we believe it is absolutely essential if we want to reach our sustainability goals.

At CCEP, we work with our employees to help them understand how they can make a difference and ensure their voices are heard. That’s why we included our employees as part of our consultation process. We also provide regular updates on our progress and celebrate key milestones, so that employees feel part of our sustainability journey.

The launch of our sustainability action plan is just the start. There is so much more to do. Our world is changing at a significant pace, and the same applies to the expectations of our stakeholders. We are determined to keep talking, listening and learning as our plan evolves.

This is an exciting time for CCEP and in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, we’re looking forward to delivering our sustainability objectives in partnership with many of you. 

Joe Franses at the Sustainability Leaders Forum 2018

Coca-Cola European Partners’ vice president of sustainability Joe Franses is among the expert speakers appearing edie’s flagship Sustainability Leaders Forum 2018.

Taking place over two days on 24-25 January at the Business Design Centre in London, the Forum will bring together more than 600 sustainability leaders  to discuss how they can deliver transformational change and enhance brand value.

Find out more about the Sustainability Leaders Forum and register to attend here.

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