Skip to main content

Coca-Coca, Carbon Reduction, Copenhagen -- and Polar Bears

<p>That's Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, on the right. On the left is a polar bear. I caught up with Muhtar Kent at COP15, where he was one of a few Fortune 500 CEOs to show up in an effort to influence the climate talks.</p>

That’s Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, on the right. On the left is a polar bear.

They got together about six weeks ago in Churchill, Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world, where Kent traveled for a couple of reasons -- to run with the Olympic torch as it made its way across the remotest parts of north Canada and to see firsthand the impact of climate change. No roads lead to Churchill, which is a port on Hudson Bay -- you have to get there by plane or train. Another fun fact about Churchill -- the newspaper there, the Hudson Bay Post, comes out once or a month, or less, depending on the news.

Anyway, I caught up with Kent over the weekend in Copenhagen, where he was one of the very few Fortune 500 CEOs to show up in an effort to influence the climate negotiations unfolding here. Give him credit for that. (The only other CEO of a big U.S. company that I ran into here was Jim Rogers from Duke Energy.) Kent has spoken in favor of a global climate treaty and, more importantly, since becoming CEO of Coca-Cola last year, he has strongly supported the company’s sustainability initiatives -- around climate, packaging and especially water.

My story about Kent is posted on Here’s how it begins:

Polar bears have been featured in Coca-Cola’s holiday advertising for nearly a century. Last month, Muhtar Kent, the company’s CEO, traveled to the Arctic to see the furry creatures up close.

It must have been cold up there, I remarked.

“Not cold enough,” replied Kent, who has emerged as a prominent corporate advocate for a global treaty to curb climate change.

“There were a lot of hungry polar bears waiting for the ice,” he said. “They were coming out of hibernation, they’d been on land for months, and they can’t feed unless they are on ice. The ice was late in forming, and we saw that with our own eyes.”

Kent sat down with Fortune in Copenhagen, where he spent the weekend. He was one of a handful of Fortune 500 CEOs to come to Denmark to throw his support behind a global agreement to regulate carbon emissions.

“It is absolutely imperative that our commitment to a low-carbon future be fully understood,” Kent said. “We’re here to lend a Coca-Cola voice to the public and political debate on getting to a fair framework, an inclusive framework, an effective framework so that we can achieve climate protection.”

We go on to talk about Coca-Cola’s sustainability work, which has a wide scope and is not cheap. The company has spent more than $50 million just researching climate-friendly refrigeration. You can read the rest of the story here.

A podcast of the interview is available at GreenBiz Radio. Senior Editor Marc Gunther maintains a blog at

Click here for full coverage of COP15 from the and teams, including posts from Copenhagen by Executive Editor Joel Makower, Gunther and dozens of guest contributors from the business world.

Image courtesy of Coca-Cola.

More on this topic