Approaching the launch of our 2014/2015 Sustainability Report, we took the time to sit down with a few subject matter experts within The Coca-Cola Company to hear their perspective on our performance. Here Greg Koch, senior director of global water stewardship at The Coca-Cola Company, lets us see the Company’s water stewardship program through his eyes and shares his reflections on the progress the Coca-Cola system has made towards our 2020 sustainability goals.

I went to university across the street from our headquarter offices, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and then worked for almost ten years in engineering design and consulting here in Atlanta.  Everyone knew and respected who Coca-Cola was but I never thought I would work there.

Well, I joined Coca-Cola right after the 1996 summer Olympic Games and am approaching 19 years with the Company, August 6 to be exact.  My personal and professional evolution since then is in large part due to the evolution our business has gone through in relation to water.

When I started, one of my responsibilities was managing the then nascent wastewater management program.  We recognized early on that water used in our manufacturing processes, left untreated, could have negative impacts on the environment and communities where we operate.  We set a goal to ensure that all wastewater across our business system would be fully treated prior to discharge even if it wasn’t required by law or even expected by society.

Important as the program was, along with water efficiency, our water actions mostly stopped at the fence line of the bottling plant.  That has changed, in a big way.

Over my career, our business has come to understand how dependent we and everything else is on water and how stressed water resources are, in the developed and developing world.  With our bottling partners, suppliers, customers, governments, NGOs, and communities we have responded to those challenges, well beyond our fence line.

Our corporate water stewardship program is grounded in our business and extends from our plants into our agricultural ingredient supply chain, the conservation of watersheds we all share, the provision of safe drinking water to people, and even water policy.  Beyond our almost 1,000 manufacturing plants, we have water sustainability projects in thousands of locations, all across the globe.

We’ve made amazing progress: in wastewater management, collectively spending over $1 billion to treat water; 12 years straight of improving water efficiency; replenishing almost all the water in our products to the environment and communities; and defining and setting an aggressive, 2020 goal for water resource management in agriculture.  You can read about this here.

I know we have more to do, but I am professionally and personally proud of how far we have come, and the company I work for.

Greg Koch is senior director of global water stewardship at The Coca-Cola Company. Follow him on Twitter @gregjkoch1

Click here to read more about our water stewardship programs and view our progress against all of our sustainability commitments in our 2014/2015 Sustainability Report