Water Wonders

Water Wonders

How Coca-Cola’s efficient use of water contributes to $1 billion in productivity savings while improving millions of lives and the environment
©The Coca-Cola Company
Greg Koch

Director, Global Water Stewardship,
The Coca-Cola Company

What kind of innovative solutions has Coca-Cola used to manage water more efficiently?

At Coca-Cola, we set a goal to ‘balance’ an amount of water equivalent to what we use in our beverages and their production by 2020. To achieve this goal we are improving our water-use efficiency; treating all wastewater from our manufacturing processes; and replenishing the water used in our finished beverages back to communities and nature.

We are also focusing innovative water stewardship efforts on our agricultural supply chain. In partnership with Cargill Incorporated and WWF, for instance, we are working in Jilin Province, China, on a sustainable corn project intended to improve the livelihoods of farmers and protect biodiversity by increasing yields, reducing waste, conserving water, and protecting wetlands. In India, we are working with Jain Irrigation to promote sustainable mango production. In all, we have contributed to sustainable agriculture initiatives in 25 countries, helping farmers protect water, increase crop yields, and reduce environmental impacts.

How have these solutions affected the company’s profits?

Innovative solutions have helped Coca-Cola avoid costs by reducing the amount of water used and discharged. And, water efficiency activities are often coupled with energy efficiency improvements, which amplify the savings. These efforts are part of an expanded productivity and reinvestment program aimed to generate an incremental $1 billion in productivity savings by 2016.

What impact have your activities around water had on the environment and on communities?

Since 2005, through 468 community water partnership projects, our initiatives for improving water access and sanitation alone are estimated to have benefitted more than 1.82 million people. Our Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), which aims to provide 2 million people with safe water access across Africa by 2015, has provided access to safe water for approximately 800,000 people in 33 of Africa’s 58 nations. It has helped replenish more than 1.3 billion liters of water and improve 1,600 communities.

With WWF, we have been working to conserve freshwater resources around the world. Some major conservation gains in freshwater basins include the establishment of a freshwater reserve in East Africa, integrated pollution control techniques in China, improved livelihoods through better production in Honduras, habitat restoration in Vietnam, and collaboration for the protection of the Danube River in Europe. In addition, we worked with Bonsucro to develop certification standards for growing and milling sugarcane more sustainably—Coca-Cola was the first to purchase certified sugar in 2011.

What advice can you give to agribusiness companies that wish to use water more sustainably and efficiently?

While it may sound simplistic, a good starting point is to measure how much water you use. You can’t plan for improvements without a baseline. Next, work to eliminate wasted water by improving the efficiency of irrigation. Then, determine the sustainability limits of your water sources, and question whether your withdrawals are more than nature can replenish and adjust accordingly. Lastly, work to reduce pollution impacts from water runoff picking up agrichemicals.

How has your participation in the 2030 Water Resources Group affected the way you do business?

As a founding member, we are collectively working with our partners, including IFC, to improve water policy around the world—engaging in country-level policy discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders. In South Africa, for example, which is anticipated to face a 17% water demand-supply gap by 2030, WRG has helped foster a cross-sector collaboration to support the South African government’s water strategy. By addressing water stewardship in the context of the “water-energy-food nexus,” many of our water projects are already helping communities by focusing on increasing crop yields while reducing the impacts on water sources through water body alterations, aquifer recharge, rainwater harvesting and more.

IFC is partnering with The Coca-Cola Company on investments made in bottling companies around the world and on strategic themes such as water, sustainable sourcing, food safety, women's empowerment, and resource efficiency.

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