SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) released last week a report detailing the evolution of The Coca-Cola Co.'s water management strategy.

The report, "Drinking It In: The Evolution of a Global Water Stewardship Program at The Coca-Cola Company" follows the company's efforts to achieve "water neutrality" across its worldwide operations while facing challenges from global water quality, availability and access.

"By chronicling the journey of The Coca-Cola Company over five years, this case study demonstrates how companies can be proactively involved in water management along their supply chains and within their own facilities," said Emma Stewart, BSR’s director of environmental R&D. "This report profiles one company's experience in advancing an integrated water strategy throughout its global operations and promoting the groundbreaking concept of 'water neutrality.'"

During the past five years, the company began developing a more holistic look at its water strategy because of three issues: it began acquiring water brands; communities in India protested a Coca-Cola bottler there because of appropriation and pollution issues; it began reporting water issues as a material risk to investors.

The company created a survey for its plants and bottlers to gather information on efficiency, compliance, watershed, supply reliability, supply economics and social and competitive contextual information.

By 2007, the company developed an integrated water strategy focused on plant performance (water use efficiency, water quality and wastewater treatment), watershed protection, enabling access to clean drinking water and working to drive global awareness and action to address water challenges. Its system-wide goal is to return all water used in its operations back to nature. Its mantra: reduce, recycle and replenish.

This year, the company has set a goal of becoming the most efficient company in the world in terms of water use in the beverage industry. It plans to be fully aligned with global wastewater treatment and reuse standards by the end of 2010. It will support projects and investments that focus on rainwater collection, reforestation, protecting water sources and local access to them and the efficient agricultural use of water.

The report offers "key takeaways" for companies, such as getting involved in water-related governance and engaging organizations to build internal knowledge and understanding of water issues.