A new water stewardship commitment to set industry standards for water efficiency and make its operations water sustainable is already paying dividends for Coca-Cola Enterprises, with water usage falling while production is increased.
The commitment is one of seven set out in the company’s new sustainability plan. Water is a vital issue for Coca-Cola and has always been a key focus of its sustainability strategy. Not only is it the main ingredient in the company’s products, water is used for cooling, washing and rinsing at its manufacturing facilities. Clean water and healthy watersheds are also essential for growing the agricultural products it uses.
A full lifecycle analysis of the water the bottling company uses showed that 99% of the embedded water footprint of its products is used in its supply chain, 76% of that in the growing and refining of sugar beet.
Consequently water stewardship is concerned not only with what happens within the company’s four walls but throughout its entire value chain.
The stewardship focuses on four key areas:
Protecting water sources
A series of water vulnerability assessments across its production facilities showed no critical impact in terms of water availability but, knowing that water stress could change in heavily populated areas, Coca-Cola has developed technical source water protection plans for each manufacturing plant.
Using less water to make its drinks
Introducing a range of measures to monitor water use and highlight inefficiencies saw water usage fall by 5% while production rose by 12%, with the company introducing a challenging new target as a result.
In 2011, 100% of the wastewater that Coca-Cola recycled and returned to either a municipality or ecosystem was treated to a level that supports aquatic life.
Replenishing the water it uses in the manufacturing process
To meet its aim of replenishing all the water it uses in water-stressed areas, Coca-Cola is investing in community-based water programmes. While it doesn’t yet have a plan in place, the company intends to work with NGOs to help meet this objective.
The water stewardship commitment is a significant stretch for Coca-Cola that will require true collaboration at every step, especially as it starts working with suppliers to reduce the impacts of it supply chain.
But its operations in Great Britain and France have a strong track record of setting standards for water efficiency and the company is keen to continue leading the industry on this vital issue.