Coca-Cola cracks down on water use

By Hayley Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Supply chain Water Water crisis

Coca-Cola is stepping up its efforts to reduce water consumption and is introducing initiatives throughout the supply chain, claimed media and...

Coca-Cola is stepping up its efforts to reduce water consumption and is introducing initiatives throughout the supply chain, claimed media and communications director Steve Leroy.

Although water is the number one ingredient in the product, the bulk of what it uses throughout the manufacturing process is for growing sugar cane. And in Europe, for example, Coca-Cola is the biggest buyer of sugar, delegates heard last week at the seventh Annual World Food Technology and Innovation Forum.

“Having made efforts to reduce our water footprint and usage in our plants, we are now looking at ways we can reduce our water usage further down the supply chain,” said Leroy.

At the moment our methods of reducing the amount of water usage to grow sugar cane are specific to certain areas. For example, in Tanzania Coca-Cola is purifying the waste water that comes out of the plant and re-using it in the sugarcane fields. Coca-Cola has partnered with US Agency for International Development (USAID), which helps fund these initiatives. “We are also spending tens of millions of dollars on our efforts to reduce water consumption,” Leroy added.

He said, however, that all ingredients in the supply chain need to be taken into account when working out the overall water footprint of a product: “We seem to have cracked reduction in the plants and so are now looking to our supply chain. Some of the other ingredients that we are going to turn our attention towards include citrus, vanilla, coffee and tea.”

But Coca-Cola has not always had a good reputation when it comes to water, admitted Leroy. “We had a situation in India where the government was looking to attract foreign investment because the farmers were out of jobs, due to a shortage of water. So when we set up the plant to give the farmers jobs, we were accused of ruining their livelihood because it looked as though the water shortage was a result of our plant. It was admittedly very short-sighted of us.”

The learning curve from this incident was important, he said, and Coca-Cola realised it needed to focus more heavily on water resource sustainability and social impact when pinpointing locations to establish plants. The drinks company, therefore, had joined forces with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to set up a tool devised to help plant managers decide on new locations.

This month Coca-Cola also extended its partnership from 2010 to 2012 with the WWF. The drinks giant has committed to reducing water usage by 20%, despite increasing the size of the company. It uses 300bn litres of water a year.

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