Replenish It’s About Balancing the Water We Use

Replenish It’s About Balancing the Water We Use

Today, Coca-Cola made a big announcement: We are on track to meet our 100 percent replenishment goal by the end of 2015. At present, the Coca-Cola system is replenishing 94 percent of our global sales volume, which means that each year an estimated 153.6 billion litres of water is going back to communities and nature through 209 community water projects in 61 countries. Without being too celebratory, this is a big accomplishment for our system.

While those of us who work on water stewardship at Coca-Cola are proud of this achievement to date, we’ve been getting questions from colleagues about what it all means. They get that this is a good thing but they’re not really sure why.

So, let’s break it down. Water is the main ingredient in the majority of our beverages and it is used in beverage production. So, yes, as a global company operating in 207 countries, with consumers enjoying our beverages at a rate of 1.9 billion servings a day, we use about 305 billion litres of water a year. But we also embrace a responsibility to replenish, or balance, the water we use to make our product offerings possible.

That’s why we set a goal to replenish the water used in our beverages and their production by 2020 (hopefully to be met this year). How do we replenish water? We return this water in two ways—wastewater treatment and replenishment projects.

Water used in our manufacturing processes is properly treated through a thorough wastewater treatment system and released back to nature at a level that meets our internal standards, local laws and regulations, as well as supports aquatic life. The water used in our finished beverages—the ones people purchase and enjoy—is what we work to replenish through community water projects in countries and territories where the need is greatest. Examples of community water projects include improving safe water access and protecting rivers and waterways.

With hundreds of projects across dozens of countries, it is critical that we have a monitoring and measurement system in place. Who holds us accountable, right? And, who knows how to determine the litres of water we’re replenishing? Our critical external partners do.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was an instrumental partner in designing the peer-reviewed methodology to quantify the benefits of our water replenishment projects, which are reviewed annually to ensure they comply with this methodology. Partners such as LimnoTech and the Global Environment & Technology Foundation, help calculate our replenishment volume using our peer-reviewed methodology. Replenishment project values are then verified by another important partner, Deloitte. You can read more about it in our replenishment report.

So, when Deloitte gave their stamp of approval for 2014 numbers, it was an exciting day around here. But celebrations around sustainability initiatives are often brief because there’s always more we can do. 

Even if we meet our replenishment goal in 2015, we will remain focused. As our sales volume continues to grow, each year we will need to continue to balance the billions of litres of water we use through wastewater treatment and replenishment projects around the world. Maintaining 100 percent replenishment will be a focus of the company and our bottling partners. And keeping up with business growth will require additional investment and new projects.

Hopefully this explanation has helped you understand replenish and what we’re trying to do as a water user and community member. After all, we all need to be in this water journey together.

Joe Rozza is global water resource sustainability manager at The Coca-Cola Company.