WHAT THE CHIEFS SAY
Water – blue gold for a thirsty world
Water is a critical resource for the Coca-Cola business: our drinks consist to about 96% of water. Water is needed for cleaning and cooling in our production sites. And it is critical to our supply chain, in particular for the agricultural ingredients we use. Sustainable water use is therefore one of the Coca-Cola system’s key business priorities, both globally and in Europe.
We have naturally focused first on our ‘own four walls’ to Protect, Reduce, Recycle and Replenish the water we use in our bottling facilities. What does this mean? Firstly, nearly all of our about 100 plants in Europe have implemented detailed water protection plans to make sure the water resource they are using is sustainable, based on in-depth water resources assessments. Secondly, all plants in Europe ensure their process water is cleaned to a standard that supports aquatic life. Thirdly, across Europe, our bottling partners have reduced water use by 25% since 2004 and need only 1.8 litres of water for the production of one litre of product today.
Finally, our most challenging but also the most impactful ambition is to replenish the equivalent of the water we use in Europe by 2020. This means, we want to make an additional 37mio m3 of water resources available for Nature and Communities. Our wetland and river restoration projects with WWF in the Danube basin or in the UK are just two examples of a growing list of replenish activities in Europe.
I often get asked: why are you doing this? And indeed, restoring wetlands is of course not part of our core business. However, I would argue that business will increasingly need to engage directly in the sustainability of water resources and work harder to protect our licence to operate.
Policy is also playing a role: The implementation of the European Commission’s Water Framework Directive is coming ever closer to our doorsteps and the challenge for business will be to integrate water resource policy into our business strategies.
As a business, we are also dependent on a stable supply chain, which has to grapple with water quantity and quality all over the world. We are working very closely across our global system to understand water sustainability impacts in our supply chains, especially agriculture, and define areas where we can leverage the size and scale of our business to find solutions together with our suppliers.
As a closing note: one challenge for all stakeholders will be to make water stewardship transparent and communicable. The recently launched European Water Stewardship Standard offers a good opportunity for businesses to have efforts independently assessed. Having piloted and tested the standard, we have now committed to roll it out to all our production sites over the next few years.
By leading the way in water stewardship we will demonstrate how businesses can reduce their impact on the freshwater environment and we encourage others to go on that journey together with us.
Dominique Reiniche is President of The Coca-Cola Company's Europe Group.