Next time you pop open a coke or drink a VitaminWater, sip on this. The 2009 World Environment Center’s (WEC) Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development will be awarded to the Coca-Cola Company. The award recognizes the beverage giant for achievements in water stewardship, packaging, climate change, and energy management.
Watching out for Water
Coca-Cola’s Signature Contribution is in the area of water stewardship. The company’s goal is to restore to the environment all water that is used to produce of its products. It aims to achieve this through reducing the amount of water in the manufacturing process, recycling water back into natural systems, and locally relevant conservation projects. With a new report predicting global water shortages by 2020, increased attention to water and natural systems seems increasingly imperative. (Hopefully Coca-Cola includes the water needed to grow and process the sugar in its calculations – approximately 200 L of water per can in Europe.)
Perfecting the Package
Coca-Cola recently announced a $400,000 award to Michigan State University to create a new Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability. The center will allow “unprecedented” collaboration between industry and academics as both work towards innovative, more environmentally sound packaging alternatives. Coca-Cola also partnered with TerraCycle to transform reclaimed billboards, misprinted labels and cans, and old glass bottles into new products for sale.
Is it Really Eco-Coke?
There is no question that the achievements celebrated by the WEC represent positive steps forward. Coca-Cola’s greening of its delivery fleet also deserves some kudos. However, some have questioned the company’s practices in places like India, citing a worsening water situation and local pollution. Additionally, the company uses high fructose corn syrup to sweeten its U.S.-sold beverages, leading to a whole host of other sustainability (and health) issues.
It’s nice to see steps forward, and perhaps someday soon – even in the beverage industry – we’ll be able to see the forst for the trees.