Coke Goes For Gold in New Air-Health Policy

Coke Goes For Gold in New Air-Health Policy

The Coca-Cola Co., under fire from environmentalists, said that it would have in place new policies on the use of hydrofluorocarbons in refrigeration in time for the 2004 Olympics.

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace has targeted the Atlanta-based company in Australia, accusing Coke of breaking "Green Games" environmental guidelines, including bans on HFCs, which have been linked to global warming, at Olympic sites. The guidelines formed an integral part of Sydney's bid to serve as host of the 2000 Olympics. [related story]

In an announcement June 27 in Sydney and Atlanta, Coca-Cola chairman Doug Daft detailed a new environmental policy for cold drink equipment.

"We will intensify our efforts to support research and innovation to accelerate the technological development of more environmentally friendly equipment," Daft said.

According to Daft, the initiative includes:

  • By the Olympics in Athens four years from now, the company will no longer purchase cold drink equipment using hydrofluorocarbons as refrigerant gases or insulation when cost-efficient alternatives are available.
  • Between now and 2004, Coca-Cola will expand its research and development program to identify and field test a variety of alternative refrigeration.
  • Suppliers will be required to announce schedules to use only HFC-free foam insulation and refrigerant in all new cold drink equipment by 2004.
  • In accord with the international Kyoto Agreement on climate change, the company is requiring suppliers to develop, by the end of the decade, new equipment that is 40% to 50% more energy efficient than today's.

Daft also said his company had reached an agreement with Skope Industries, one of the largest commercial refrigeration companies in the Southern Hemisphere, to develop the capacity to produce large single-door, high-performance coolers using gases that have a negligible effect on the environment.

The agreement "will be a significant legacy of our involvement in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games," Daft said.

Environmentalists estimate Coca-Cola will have 1,700 refrigerators using HFCs in Sydney and only 100 coolers that comply with the "Green Games" guidelines.

Greenpeace impressed

In Sydney, Greenpeace Australia applauded Coca-Cola for agreeing to change.

"Today's policy change shows that big industry can be made to abandon dirty practices when environmental groups raise the alarm," said Greenpeace international Olympics campaigner Blair Palese. "Today's announcement sets a strong environmental benchmark for other industries.

"Greenpeace will work to ensure that Coca-Cola delivers on its new policy and provides adequate verification and independent monitoring of action," he said.

Coca-Cola has said the cooling equipment to be used at Olympic sites was a "significant advance" in energy efficiency and that commercial drink coolers using alternative refrigerants were not commercially available on a scale required for the Olympics.