The Coca-Cola Company & WWF Global Partnership
Creating a More Climate-Resilient and Water-Secure Future
In 2007, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola) launched a groundbreaking partnership that inspired local cooperation across all of Coca-Cola's operating units. In total, our work together has spanned more than 50 of the approximately 100 countries where WWF works. Our focus has been to help ensure healthy, thriving freshwater basins around the world, including in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) in Central America, the Yangtze River in China, the Danube River in Europe, the Rio Conchos in Mexico, the Umzimvubu River in South Africa, and more. We have expanded our work beyond water to improve environmental performance across Coca-Cola's supply chain, including reducing emissions. Together, we're strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities to respond to the climate crisis and water stresses, helping reimagine how we source agricultural ingredients, and transforming packaging to prevent waste.
In addition to its partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, WWF has received grant funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation to support impactful initiatives such as the Living Danube Partnership and the Replenish Africa Initiative. This report features work from the past five years of partnership between WWF and The Coca-Cola Company and the work supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation around the globe.
For more than a decade, our partnership with WWF has made meaningful progress in addressing complex issues and challenges in our world, focused primarily on water in our communities. I've had the opportunity to travel to river basins where we work and see the positive outcomes of this journey for local communities and our business. There is more to be done. We believe true change can be achieved with additional partners, support, and investment to drive lasting, positive changes for our planet.
Bea Perez, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications, Sustainability and Strategic Partnerships Officer, The Coca-Cola Company
Beyond 2020: A Look Ahead
Drove innovative, climate-smart solutions to freshwater challenges through nature-based solutions such as ecosystem restoration, basin-wide community engagement, and comprehensive policy support to tackle a broad range of water issues, from water shortages and pollution to access to clean water. Catalyzed how the value of nature is integrated with company and public policy decision-making.
Helped Coca-Cola set its “drink in your hand” carbon emission reduction goal,1 which addressed Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions across the Coca-Cola system’s global operations. Advised in the development of a 2030 science-based target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction for the Coca-Cola system’s global footprint.2 Created pilot projects to design and test climate adaptation and resilience innovations to help Coca-Cola understand and respond to climate risks for the benefit of people and nature in the places where it operates.
1Coca-Cola’s work toward its “drink in your hand” goal reduced its relative carbon emissions by 25% by 2020, against a 2010 baseline.
2Coca-Cola’s science-based target is to reduce absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25% by 2030 from a 2015 baseline.
Advanced global dialogue and action on how Coca-Cola sources, uses, recycles, and reduces plastic packaging by measuring the company’s global plastic footprint and identifying key interventions to enact and track progress year over year.
Prioritized and increased global sustainable ingredient sourcing, particularly around driving more sustainable production of corn and cane sweeteners, driving collective action across industry through initiatives including Bonsucro and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.
Our water stewardship partnership identified priority basins around the world, and by 2017, our projects extended across 50 countries. We've worked to drive collective action with governments, local communities, and other businesses to ensure these basins are protected well into the future.
In the Mesoamarican Reef (MAR) and Yangtze River basins, two main partnership focus areas, we developed replicable models for collective action and government engagement. In the MAR, for example, we institutionalized water reserves in Guatemala that will safeguard 2.2 billion cubic meters of freshwater resources. In the Yangtze, we achieved two consecutive years of finless porpoise population growth and the reintroduction of the Père David's deer species into the wild as a result of watershed protection and restoration. In 2021, China upgraded the finless porpoise to the highest level of protection, a welcome announcement and a win for the partnership.
Rebirth Along China's Yangtze River
From its source on the icy Himalayan plateaus to its glittering delta on the East China Sea near Shanghai, the Yangtze River connects China's magnificently disparate landscapes and cultures. The river also propels the country's strong economic growth. The 1.8 million-square-kilometer Yangtze River basin provides water, transport, and food for almost one-third of China's 1.4 billion people and contributes more than 40% of the country's gross domestic product.
Despite government-driven, orchestrated efforts for environmental protection, rapid growth continues to pose ecological challenges to the Yangtze, the world's third-longest river. Coca-Cola and WWF are working together in the upper, central, and lower Yangtze as well as in the Hunan province to promote sustainable development. The work in Hunan province is focused on improving the health of a subbasin of the Liuyang River, the Xiang River, and Dongting Lake, from their tributary sources to their confluence with the Yangtze.
WWF and Coca-Cola were instrumental in creating pilot projects along the Yangtze that show a path forward for conservation. In many cases, these pilot projects were adopted and scaled up by the government. Through this approach, we have been able to secure stronger environmental protection of the Yangtze.
Through implementation of the pilot projects, the partnership worked to address negative ecological impacts on the headwaters through enhanced forest conservation, on the central hills through sustainable agricultural practices, and on the basin's lower reaches through wetland restoration. As a result, Père David's deer were released back into the wild in the Dongting Lake area in 2016 and finless porpoise populations have experienced steady growth.
In rural communities with no sewer infrastructure, the partnership constructed wetlands that cleanse household wastewater, preventing pollution from entering natural waterways and providing clean water for farm irrigation. This approach has been widely adopted by the provincial government.
The partnership supported the first catchment-level Liuyang Natural Capital Assessment, which called for the creation of Dongting National Park, a plan that has been embraced by the government.
Success in the Dongting subbasin led to work in Poyang Lake, where the partnership helped prepare local communities for an impending fishing moratorium to aid the finless porpoise in the Nanji National Nature Reserve. The local communities now have access to alternative livelihoods, including roles as park docents who help enforce the moratorium and encourage bird-watching tourism. The local community has embraced the nature reserve, which provides a safe haven for finless porpoises and water birds.
WWF and Coca-Cola worked to create two oxbow lake reserves, the Tian-e-zhou and He-wang-miao, which are critical habitats for the Yangtze finless porpoise. These habitats were the world's first two successful conservation sites for freshwater porpoises that were reintroduced to the wild. The partnership also supports conservation in nature reserves in the central and lower Yangtze, protecting millions of migratory birds. This work touches many Ramsar sites, including the Shanghai Chongming Dongtan. As a result of our work, Chinese provincial and national governments are now safeguarding more than 200,000 hectares of high-conservation-value wetlands.
Working Together for a Living Danube
Considered by many to be the lifeline of Europe, the Danube River links 10 countries along nearly 3,000 kilometers of the river and its tributaries, sustaining countless human and natural habitats through flood protection, drinking water, and recreation. Tragically, it is estimated that 80% of the floodplains and wetlands along the Danube and its main tributaries have disappeared over the past 150 years, resulting in plummeting fish and wildlife populations and worsening water quality.
To help mitigate these risks and dependence on proper water management in the region, in 2014, Coca-Cola and WWF-Central and Eastern Europe joined forces with the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), to help restore these vital wetlands and floodplains, with financial support from The Coca-Cola Foundation, leveraging European Union and national funds.
This unique, cross-sectoral cooperation, called the Living Danube Partnership, has brought together the political framework of the ICPDR and its member governments, the resources and capabilities of the Coca-Cola system and The Coca-Cola Foundation, and the capacity and know-how of WWF.
Most of the collaborative work entailed connecting river stretches or floodplains to the river system by removing rockfill dams, installing or modernizing sluices for water retention, creating open water surfaces, and improving water supply channels—while also helping create a regional movement for wetland conservation and restoration.
The ambitious, seven-year Living Danube Partnership is on track to increase the Danube River's capacity by the equivalent of more than 4,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools (about 13 million cubic meters) and to restore more than 5,462 hectares of vital wetlands, rivers, and floodplains through nine projects in Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania by the end of 2021.
Safeguarding Canada’s Fresh Water
In Canada, where thousands of lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands hold 20% of the world's fresh water, Coca-Cola and WWF-Canada have partnered on freshwater conservation and replenishment since 2007.
When a 2017 WWF-Canada report revealed that many of Canada's freshwater ecosystems were under threat from climate change, fragmentation, and habitat loss, WWF-Canada and Coca-Cola Canada established the WWF-Canada Restoration Fund. The fund supported community-driven projects across the country, providing impactful and lasting benefits for both nature and communities.
Support from the fund helped enable the local nonprofit organization ACAP Saint John to open and restore sections of the Newman's and Caledonia Brooks in Saint John, New Brunswick that were diverted or developed to a more natural state. It also aided the Salt Spring Island Conservancy with restoring former golf course fairways to their original habitat and helped the Central Westcoast Forest Society improve conditions for wild Pacific salmon and other threatened wildlife.
The fund supported British Columbia's Katzie First Nation in restoring important salmon spawning areas by removing in-stream barriers caused by a landslide and building rock and log fortifications to protect spawning beds. This sparked the development of a multi-stakeholder partnership to implement an innovative 10-year vision for a First Nations-led watershed restoration, ensuring co-benefits to climate and community.
In 2019, and continuing to the present day, our collaboration has expanded to include related issues such as shoreline litter through Coca-Cola's support as a co-presenting sponsor of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, which is Canada's largest direct-action conservation program; it encourages people to remove shoreline litter and to improve the health of waters for all. This collaboration was inspired by our complementary goals to keep plastic out of nature (WWF) and to build a World Without Waste (The Coca-Cola Company).