The blog below reflects my recent participation in “Green Growth in the Agro-food Chain: What Role for the Private Sector?” – a workshop hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD . I had the opportunity to represent “the private sector” voice, and the processing community in a very productive discussion on the role that companies play in driving “green growth” in the agriculture sector.

When I think about the term “green growth” and its relation to our agro-food chain, I realize Coca-Cola’s success is, in part, because we have and continue to integrate green growth into our business model and strategy.

At Coca-Cola, we’ve learned a few things over the years about the private sector’s potential to promote green growth.  When we have asked ourselves how we can do more with less, we’ve seen real social and environmental impacts in the communities that we serve as well as financial benefits for the business. This is an important message that needs to be communicated across the private sector. My remarks last week mainly touched on the following two points: valuing nature and the importance of cross-sector partnerships to maximize impact.

Our business depends on nature and her resources for the supply of freshwater and agricultural ingredients.  But how do we begin to recognize the value of these services?  At Coca-Cola, we identified the natural resource we use most for our beverages: water.  By focusing on our primary ingredient, we have the opportunity to make the greatest impact.  Coca-Cola is working to “give back” or replenish the amount of water used in our beverages and their production.  

But, we can’t do it alone.  At Coca-Cola, we rely on partnerships that connect across the “Golden Triangle” of business, government and civil society around issues of sustainability. Coca-Cola has developed strong partnerships with organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), TechnoServe, the United Nations Development Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide expertise and help drive sustainable, “green” growth.

Since 2007, our partnership with WWF has yielded several successful ventures, including the multiple projects on sustainable sugarcane cultivation and the farmer-led Project Catalyst. It’s extremely encouraging to note that our partnerships have facilitated and enabled our collaboration with countless other stakeholders, including local NGOs, communities, and the farmers and growers themselves.

We also work with The Nature Conservancy, Field to Market, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and corn farmers to implement conservation practices that return water to nature, build soils for increasing productivity, and restore wetlands to enhance biodiversity.

Partnerships like these allow the best of each party’s approach to improve the way global environmental challenges are addressed. Together, we accomplish more and create more opportunities than we could possibly do alone.

Continuing the conversation, this week Coca-Cola will participate in the 2013 World Economic Forum on Africa, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Forum will provide an important platform for regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to deepen the continent’s integration agenda and renew commitment to a sustainable path of growth and development. Coca-Cola representatives will be participating in several sessions focused on our partnerships in the sustainable agriculture sector, including exciting developments for Project Nurture and the Grow Africa Agricultural Investment Forum.  Without a doubt, the conversations will continue to demonstrate the value that our cross-sector partnerships have around the world, every day.

Denise Knight is Global Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at The Coca-Cola Company.