BEIJING - The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) today pledged to lead its global beverage operations, including those of its franchise bottlers, to replace the water it uses in its beverages and their production. The Company will focus its actions in three core areas: 1) reducing the water used to produce its beverages, 2) recycling water used for beverage manufacturing processes, and 3) replenishing water in communities and nature.
The pledge was announced at the annual meeting of WWF in Beijing, where the Company launched a multi-year partnership with WWF to conserve and protect freshwater resources. This $20 million (US) commitment from The Coca-Cola Company to WWF will be used to help conserve seven of the world's most important freshwater river basins, support more efficient water management in its operations and global supply chain, and reduce the Company's carbon footprint.
"We are focusing on water because this is where The Coca-Cola Company can have a real and positive impact," said E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. "Our goal is to replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production. For us that means reducing the amount of water used to produce our beverages, recycling water used for manufacturing processes so it can be returned safely to the environment, and replenishing water in communities and nature through locally relevant projects."
"The Coca-Cola Company is answering the call to help solve the global freshwater crisis through this bold partnership," said James Leape, Director General of WWF International. "The Company is stepping into new and uncharted territory, and we look forward to working together to meet the bold commitments they have made to water stewardship."
In 2006, The Coca-Cola Company and its franchised bottlers used approximately 290 billion liters of water for beverage production. Of that amount, approximately 114 billion liters were contained in the Company's broad portfolio of beverages sold in markets around the world, and another 176 billion liters were used in beverage manufacturing processes such as rinsing, cleaning, heating and cooling.
The Company's pledge to replace the water it uses has three core components: reduce, recycle and replenish.
Reduce: The Coca-Cola Company will set specific water efficiency targets for global operations by 2008 to be the most efficient user of water within peer companies. These targets will build on improvements already made by The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers in water-use efficiency over the past five years, a period where total water use has decreased by 5.6% while sales volume has increased by 14.6%. In that same period, water efficiency improved 18.6%.
Recycle: The Company will align its entire global system in returning all water that it uses for manufacturing processes to the environment at a level that supports aquatic life and agriculture by the end of 2010. While water is treated currently to comply with local regulations and standards, the Company has wastewater treatment standards that are more stringent than applicable standards in many parts of the world. Nearly 85 percent of Company and independent bottling operations are aligned with the Company's higher standards, and the Company pledged to align 100% of its entire global system.
Replenish: The Company will expand support of healthy watersheds and sustainable communities to balance the water used in its finished beverages. Engagement will include a wide range of locally relevant initiatives, such as watershed protection, community water access, rain water harvesting, reforestation and agricultural water use efficiency. Numerous projects are already underway: the Company has community and watershed programs in 40 countries focused on education and awareness, productive water use, watershed management and water supply, sanitation and hygiene; the Company has some 300 rainwater harvesting structures throughout its global operations; and, last week, in Brazil, The Coca-Cola Company and FEMSA announced a partnership with SOS Mata Atlantica to reforest over three million trees on 3,000 hectares of Atlantic rainforest. Unlike carbon, the concept of balancing water use is not well defined, and WWF, The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners will work together to measure the impact of these activities on water availability.
In recognition of the impacts on water resources from the "embedded" water in agricultural commodities and packaging, WWF and TCCC will work together to encourage efficient water use in the Company's supply chain, beginning with sugar cane. Work with WWF's Better Sugar Initiative has already demonstrated the Company's commitment to steward its supply chain's use of water. Measurable targets will be set for improvements of water use, in time, with its agricultural partners.
"Society is just beginning to understand the world's water challenges," continued Isdell, "No single company or organization has all of the answers or holds ultimate responsibility, but we all can do our part to conserve and protect water resources. Our Company will need time and cooperation from our bottlers, our suppliers and our conservation partners to accomplish the goal of replacing the water we use. We will be open about our progress and engage others to better understand what it takes."
TCCC and WWF have been working together for several years on a number of pilot projects to conserve water, address water efficiency in the Company's operations and protect species. The partners are expanding their work together to achieve meaningful and large-scale results.
The partnership will focus on measurably conserving seven of the world's most critical freshwater river basins: China's Yangtze; Southeast Asia's Mekong; the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo of Southwest United States and Mexico; the rivers and streams of the Southeastern United States; the water basins of the Mesoamerican Caribbean Reef; the East Africa basin of Lake Malawi; and Europe's Danube River. These river basins (also know as watersheds) span more than 20 countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia and were chosen because of their biological distinctiveness, opportunity for meaningful conservation gains, and potential to advance issues of resource protection.
"The water crisis is as important as climate change," said Carter Roberts, President of WWF-US. "Thousands of people die each day from polluted water. Freshwater species are more at risk for extinction. These conditions will only get worse with climate change. The Coca-Cola Company's commitment to water neutrality is a first. We need more companies to step up and make similar commitments if we are going to reverse these current trends."
With WWF as a partner, The Coca-Cola Company also will work to further improve upon efficient use of water in its manufacturing system's operations. Teams of experts from The Coca-Cola Company and WWF will collaborate on innovative ways to help Coca-Cola be even more efficient in its use of water.
Also recognizing the impacts of climate change on the water cycle, WWF and TCCC will work together on climate protection. WWF and TCCC experts have already led a series of energy and climate protection workshops for many of the Company's bottling partners. Targets will be set for climate-related emission reductions in the next year.
"Freshwater resources are under growing stress around the world," said Jeff Seabright, Vice President, Environment and Water Resources, The Coca-Cola Company. "This partnership will leverage the best of both organizations to make a real and positive impact on one of the greatest sustainability challenges we face."
The Coca-Cola Company's environmental protection efforts - 1) global water stewardship, 2) package design, recovery and reuse, and 3) energy and climate protection - address the areas that are most important to its business and are where the Company can make the greatest impact.
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