Coca-Cola sets goal to improve water efficiency by 2020

Improving Our Water Efficiency

Meeting Goals and Moving Goalposts



By 2020, improve water efficiency in manufacturing operations by 25 percent compared with a 2010 baseline.


2018 water effeciency

In 2017, our water efficiency improved for the 15th consecutive year, with a 2.55% improvement over 2016, a 15% improvement over 2010. This also amounts to a 29.3% improvement since 2004 when we started reporting efficiency progress as a global system.

Our systemwide water efficiency has improved for 15 consecutive years. When we started this journey in 2004, we were using 2.7 liters of water to make 1 liter of product. That means that 1 liter of water is in the product and another 1.7 liters is used in the manufacturing process, mostly for keeping equipment clean. Today, we’re using 1.92 liters of water to make 1 liter of product and we’re working to reduce it to 1.7 liters of water per liter of product (a 25 percent improvement) by 2020. But what does that mean?

In 2017, we used about 289 billion liters of water to produce approximately 151 billion liters of product (e.g., Coca‑Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero) that translated into some 166 billion liters of finished product sales to consumers. Sales volume is greater than production volume mainly because sales include the full volume of fountain drinks sold to consumers. We used approximately 138 billion liters of water in our manufacturing process to make that 151 billion liters of product in our operations. So, that’s the definition of water efficiency – how much water it takes to make our product.

The good news is that we’re on track to meet our goal, and in many parts of the world, we’re ahead of schedule.

Our 2020 goal is aggressive. The good news is that we’re on track to meet our goal, and in many parts of the world, we’re ahead of schedule. Some of our bottling plants are already using 1.7 liters of water, or less, to make a liter of product. Some are operating at as low as 1.4 liters of water per liter of product. Our progress on water efficiency places us among the leading companies in the beverage industry according to a benchmarking report by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable.

Understanding Our Water Footprint

The key driver in improving our water efficiency is reducing or removing water use in our manufacturing processes. Over the years we’ve made significant investments in new technologies and operating procedures that replace or reduce water use in our manufacturing operations. In order to expand on such improvements, we need to understand where water is used and where we have opportunities for improvement.

Water footprinting—an approach to assess the total volume of water used to produce a product—is helping us extend our view of how we use water across our manufacturing processes and supply chain. Our studies have shown that around 80 percent of the total water footprint of our products comes from our agricultural ingredient supply chain. As a founding partner of the Water Footprint Network, we have worked with WWF, The Nature Conservancy and others to assess the water embedded in our products, packaging and ingredients so we can better understand the implications for our business, and work to reduce impacts.

In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, we issued a report, Product Water Footprint Assessments: Practical Application in Corporate Water Stewardship,exploring the utility and practical application of the water footprint methodology for understanding our water use throughout the value chain, and for identifying the impacts of that use and associated response actions.

Water footprint studies were conducted related to the following Coca‑Cola products and ingredients:

  • Coca‑Cola® in a 0.5 liter PET bottle produced in the Netherlands;
  • Beet sugar supplied to Coca‑Cola Europe’s bottling plants; and
  • Orange juice produced for the North American market.

The largest portion of the product water footprints assessed as part of these studies came from the field, not the factory, which demonstrated significant opportunity to engage more directly with our agricultural ingredient suppliers in advancing sustainable water use. Guided in part by these assessments, to date, we have focused studies on the “blue,” green” and “grey” water footprints of sugar beets, orange juice and Coca‑Cola® to help us pinpoint potential sustainability impacts in specific growing regions.

Addressing the quantity of water used to grow our product ingredients is not enough; we also need to address the impact of that use as well. Understanding impact is important, because large water footprints can be sustainable in water-rich areas, while very small water footprints might compromise sustainability in places where water is scarce. Gaining a clear understanding of impacts makes good environmental sense and provides better guidance for prioritizing areas of concern. Coca‑Cola Europe has proposed a methodology for water footprint sustainability assessments that considers impacts as well as water quantity. Read more about it here. Also, please see the section below and refer to the Sustainable Agriculture section of our Sustainability Report for more details on our efforts with suppliers.

Focusing on Sustainable Agriculture Practices

In July 2013, we set a goal to more sustainably source our key agricultural ingredients. At the same time, we publicly announced our Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles (SAGP), which were developed over the course of several years in collaboration with our NGO partners, bottling partners and suppliers. Because the agricultural supply chain is complex and every ingredient is different, the SAGP outline our expectations across the entire supply chain, in alignment with our 2020 goal.

1 The water used in our manufacturing process is then properly treated and released back to nature at a level that supports aquatic life. The total sales volume, inclusive of water in products leaving our production facilities, is what we’re working to replenish through community water projects (e.g., safe water access and reforestation).