Coca-Cola Pledges $20M Conserve, Protect World's Water Resources

Coca-Cola Pledges $20M Conserve, Protect World's Water Resources

At the World Wildlife Federation's annual meeting, the beverage company announced a multi-year partnership with the environmental group to reduce its water use, recycle more of the water used in its manufacturing, and work to conserve freshwater resources worldwide.

Coke pledged a $20 million commitment over the coming years to the program, which includes work on conserving seven of the world's major freshwater river basins, managing the company's water use more efficiently and reducing its carbon footprint.

"We are focusing on water because this is where The Coca-Cola Company can have a real and positive impact," said E. Neville Isdell, Coca-Cola's CEO. "Our goal is to replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production. For us that means reducing the amount of water used to produce our beverages, recycling water used for manufacturing processes so it can be returned safely to the environment, and replenishing water in communities and nature through locally relevant projects."

The company estimates that it used 290 billion liters of water in its production processes in 2006 alone. Less than half of that amount -- 114 billion liters -- ended up in bottles sold by the company. The remaining 176 billion liters were used to rinse, clean, heat and cool during the manufacturing of Coca-Cola beverages.

The three main components of today's announcement are: reduce, recycle and replenish. To reduce its water use, Coke will set specific water efficiency goals by next year to continue what it said were major gains in water efficiency. Over the past five years, the company estimates total water use has decreased by 5.6 percent while sales volume has increased by 14.6 percent.

Coca-Cola also announced plans to recycle 100 percent of the water it uses worldwide, returning it to the environment "at a level that supports aquatic life and agriculture," as the company said in a statement, by the end of 2010.

In order to replenish watersheds in some of the world's biggest rivers, the company said it will continue a range of activities already underway, including its 300 rainwater harvesting structures already in place throughout its global operations. Last week, in Brazil, Coke announced a partnership with SOS Mata Atlantica to reforest over three million trees on 3,000 hectares of Atlantic rainforest.

In recognition of the impacts on water resources from the "embedded" water in agricultural commodities and packaging, WWF and Coke will work together to encourage efficient water use in the company's supply chain, beginning with WWF's Better Sugar Initiative.

"Society is just beginning to understand the world's water challenges," said Isdell, "No single company or organization has all of the answers or holds ultimate responsibility, but we all can do our part to conserve and protect water resources."

Coke and WWF have been working together for several years on a number of pilot projects to conserve water, address water efficiency in the Company's operations and protect species. The partners are expanding their work together to achieve meaningful and large-scale results.

The partnership will focus on measurably conserving seven of the world's most critical freshwater river basins: China's Yangtze; Southeast Asia's Mekong; the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo of Southwest United States and Mexico; the rivers and streams of the Southeastern United States; the water basins of the Mesoamerican Caribbean Reef; the East Africa basin of Lake Malawi; and Europe's Danube River. These river basins (also know as watersheds) span more than 20 countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia and were chosen because of their biological distinctiveness, opportunity for meaningful conservation gains, and potential to advance issues of resource protection.

"The water crisis is as important as climate change," said Carter Roberts, President of the U.S. World Wildlife Fund. "Thousands of people die each day from polluted water. Freshwater species are more at risk for extinction. These conditions will only get worse with climate change. The Coca-Cola Company's commitment to water neutrality is a first. We need more companies to step up and make similar commitments if we are going to reverse these current trends."

Also recognizing the impacts of climate change on the water cycle, WWF and Coke will work together on climate protection. Experts from both groups have already led a series of energy and climate protection workshops for many of the Company's bottling partners. Targets will be set for climate-related emission reductions in the next year.