Water is absolutely fundamental to life, all life. People, communities, farming, energy production, business, schools, plants, animals, ecosystems and watersheds, you name it. Without enough clean, fresh water in the time and place where it is needed, water stress exists. And wherever you have water stress, all water users in that area will face real impacts and a risk for future challenges.
Many forms of water stress exist and factors such as population growth, economic development, and climate change are increasing stress in many places. Given our global presence (operating in all but two countries globally) and largely non-export business model (bottling products locally and selling to adjacent and nearby communities), we have a comprehensive and unique perspective on water stress.
Water stress has many faces and should not be defined solely as physical availability. Water stress, and therefore risk, are a function of physical availability, water quality, infrastructure pressure, pricing, extreme weather events, competing use, increasing demand, climate change, policy, public sector management capacity, regulatory limits and social acceptance. In taking a broader view of risks and stressors of water supplies, we find that almost all locations have some element of risk and stress to water.
We also have a unique relationship with water. Water is the lifeblood of our business. It is needed to grow our agricultural ingredients, used in manufacturing, and is in each of our products. It’s no secret that our bottling plants use water to make our beverages, our finished products are liquid and anyone can easily conclude that we use water. When water resources are stressed, we are at the table to discuss and help implement solutions.
Plant-Level Planning & Risk Assessment
To better understand and manage water stress and risk, in 2015, we conducted a global plant-level, water-risk assessment to inform our global water strategy. This was a refresh of a risk assessment first conducted in 2004. The process involves a detailed, plant-level survey for each facility, extensive geospatial monitoring of various factors affecting water and a risk quantification model.
We evaluated risk from the perspective of the manufacturing facility and the local community and watershed. The categories for the facility were supply reliability, efficiency, economics, and quality. For the community/watershed, we evaluated watershed sustainability including quantity, quality and the effectiveness of policy, as well as the social considerations of water and sanitation access, community engagement, government interactions and media.
The assessment received strong participation from our business units and bottling partners, and covers 99% of the global manufacturing system. Technical, public and government affairs, and sustainability functions were fully engaged to ensure cross-functional alignment on the results and action plans.
Key findings from our most recent global water risk assessment include:
- 35% of risks related to watershed sustainability
- 27% related to supply reliability
- 18% related to efficiency and economics
- 11% related to local/social risks, and
- 9% related to internal controls and management systems.
Our global water strategy is designed to manage these potential risks.
The risk assessment confirmed the effectiveness of our water stewardship strategy: manufacturing facility performance (efficiency, reuse, stormwater management, and wastewater treatment), water resource management in our agricultural ingredient supply chain, watershed protection, sustainable communities, raising global awareness and action around water challenges, and engagement on water policy. Why do we go beyond assuring enough water for our plants and being good stewards of water in our plants (efficiency, wastewater treatment, etc.)? All the water that we use in manufacturing is drawn from local water sources that we share with others. And, because we sell our products to those adjacent and nearby communities, we have a vested, business interest in water for beyond our operations.
Community-Level Planning & Source Protection
Our water stewardship outside our plants starts with people. Each facility is required to employ a rights-based approach to local community water needs by determining the possible impact of the facility’s water use on the community being able to access a sufficient supply of water, the potential impact on communities from the discharge of treated wastewater, and a program to remedy any impacts identified. A similar approach is used in the due diligence process associated with new plant siting and expansions.
The detailed risk assessment explained above is complemented by a comprehensive source water protection plan program where we also require each operation to gain a clear understanding of where their water comes from, the amount of water available, its quality, water infrastructure condition and needs, policies that govern water and more, all to determine the current or future stress on the water supply. This is part of a global requirement and formalized process to responsibly manage water called Water Resource Sustainability. This first step, the understanding, is called a Source Water Vulnerability Assessment (we refer to them as SVAs).
Once an SVA is complete, the plant then develops a Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP). Almost all of our facilities have started to implement locally relevant SWPPs that detail specific risk-mitigation actions to address the vulnerabilities identified by the SVAs and deadlines for completing them. When developing and implementing a SWPP, we engage the community, local government, civil society and other businesses to look for ways to collaborate. We believe this fosters greater transparency, and enables us to work together to address vulnerabilities that may exist since concerns around water quantity and quality are shared by all who rely on a water source in a given area.
SVAs inventory the social, environmental and regulatory risks to the water sources supplying our facilities and the surrounding communities to inform SWPPs. Plans concentrate on shared challenges at the watershed level, from hydrological vulnerabilities to local water management, and often are the basis for our community water projects aimed at protecting and improving water sources.
Beyond the SVAs and SWPPs, the Water Resource Sustainability program requires each production facility to: 1. Form and train a water resource management team that includes the plant manager, plant engineers, water resource expert(s), bottler and business unit technical and public/government affairs representatives; and 2. Maintain and update the source water protection plan with source vulnerabilities on five-year intervals or sooner, as conditions warrant.
To date, this program has identified over 3,700 mitigation actions which are part of our system’s collective SWPPs. We continue to implement SWPPs and vulnerability assessments in all facilities globally to address water vulnerabilities. Through this program we address manufacturing needs and growth issues in addition to issues the community faces.
More on Journey
- 10 Years of Switching Off: How Earth Hour Became a Global Movement
- Water for Life: Youth-based NGO Raleigh Borneo and Coca-Cola Malaysia Provide Clean Water to Rural Communities in Sabah
- Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent Receives 2017 Water Leader Award
- Muhtar Kent Remarks: U.S. Water Partnership 2017 Water Leader Award
- A Media Trip That Changed My Life