There’s no time to waste for action on emissions

As the climate crisis intensifies, every business needs to step up and play its part to cut carbon emissions. Marcel Martin, Group Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, Coca-Cola HBC, explains how innovation and partnerships will be key to making the company's NetZeroBy40 pledge happen.

There’s no time to waste for action on emissions

After another year of horrific wildfires, floods and other climate extremes, there is no doubting the effects of climate change.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently said: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

Warnings like this can’t be ignored. The planet faces a real and current crisis, requiring urgent action from all players in society, including the business community.

Everyone can contribute

Companies around the world, large and small, in every industry, can play their part to achieve a carbon-neutral future. Every business needs to look hard at itself and assess where it can decarbonise, from its direct operations to supply chain.

This is exactly what we’re doing at Coca-Cola HBC, as we recently pledged to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across our entire value chain by 2040.

The primary goal of our NetZeroBy40 action plan is to reduce our emissions to the maximum and adapt our business to get as close as possible to zero. We know that we cannot just erase all emissions from our business, but we can keep them in balance. We will do everything we can, and help our partners in their own efforts, to get to this critical goal by 2040.

Seize the opportunity

As we are active in 29 countries and with 59 production plants, it may seem daunting to address a challenge on this scale, but I prefer to see the opportunities. If we look across all the elements of our business and supply chain, we have a lot of levers to pull, and the chance to draw on the collective determination and ingenuity of our partners to help us. I’m confident that by working collectively and collaboratively, we’ll find the answers and the determination and confidence to achieve our goal.

It’s also important to explore all the avenues to achieve net-zero. Where emissions cannot be eliminated entirely, or reduced enough, we can take action to mitigate them through other climate protection measures, such as planting trees and replenishing natural watersheds and habitats. But those actions should only follow significant reductions in any emissions that can be directly reduced and controlled.

Coca-Cola HBC has already achieved science-based carbon-reduction targets, so our confidence is founded on a strong track record. We were one of the first companies to commit to and deliver science-based targets and, over the past 10 years, we’ve already reduced our overall emissions by 50%, and by 31% in our value chain.

More recently, we have expanded and deepened our focus on climate. Last year, we announced 2030 targets to reduce our direct greenhouse gas emissions from our operations by 55%, and to reduce the absolute emissions across our value chain by 21%. Importantly, these targets are approved science-based targets, aligned with the 1.5-degree Celsius pathway. The NetZeroby40 announcement is the logical extension of that journey.

Promising action is not enough

As more businesses commit to net-zero plans, it’s important to demonstrate real progress early in the process. We can’t just make announcements promising future action. That’s not enough. Committing to net-zero targets requires the whole organisation – along with all of its partners – to change the way it acts and thinks, with agreed actions and shared determination.

We know from the experience of another existential crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic – that when an emergency has the power to derail the accepted world order and the health of millions, seemingly unimaginable things can be achieved in a very short time. Imagine if society responded to the climate crisis with the same urgency and collaborative power that we saw with the development of the Covid-19 vaccines, for example. That’s what it will take, and after witnessing the remarkable things that can be achieved over the past two years, now is the time to turn our attention to the future of our planet.

Marcel Martin, Group Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, Coca-Cola HBC

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