In a rapidly changing world faced with environmental and social challenges, our sustainability approach continues to evolve. Instead of viewing issues in a silo, we consider intersections by examining how action in one focus area could positively or negatively impact another.

Achieving maximum impact from sustainability efforts requires identifying and implementing integrated programs, such as those that simultaneously benefit women, water and agriculture in the case of Coca-Cola. Sustainability connection points are where we can realize the most impactful sustainability gains.

Understanding the Important Connections among Women, Water and Agriculture

Water quality and availability are key to our business—and connected to many of the world’s sustainability challenges. The water replenishment projects we work on have benefits beyond our three main objectives of improving safe access to water and sanitation; protecting watersheds; and providing water for productive use. In many cases, projects also help improve local livelihoods; help communities adapt to climate change, which could negatively affect water resources; improve water quality; and enhance biodiversity.

A critical connection point to water is agriculture. Agriculture accounts for approximately 70 percent of the world’s water withdrawals, and is therefore a large part of our water strategy. In fact, 15 percent of the water projects contributing to our replenish volume relate to water for productive use, which includes agricultural efficiency projects such as rainwater harvesting or water reuse for irrigation.

“Water quality and availability are key to our business—and connected to many of the world’s sustainability challenges.”

In Africa, our Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), in partnership with nonprofit CARE, is working to enable farmers, particularly women farmers, to improve their livelihoods and be more food-secure through Water Smart Agriculture (WaSA) technologies and practices. In Malawi, CARE established 42 demonstration plots, which have been used to showcase improved water resources and land management techniques as well as other agricultural best practices for replication by smallholder farmers across the region. As a result, more than 3,600 farmers in Malawi have learned and engaged directly in water smart practices that conserve water and increase yield.

Water and agriculture have a deep relationship with women empowerment. Access to water means less time women and girls spend retrieving it. Instead, women who no longer transport water for their families can learn entrepreneurial skills to run businesses. Water access also brings employment opportunities through new businesses related to agriculture. Women farmers contribute significantly to our agricultural supply chain, including thousands who have been economically enabled through Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program.

For example, Project Unnati equips mango farmers in India to adopt Ultra High Density farming Practices (UHDP), allowing more trees to be planted in less space, which means enhanced crop yields and incomes. Over the next few years, Project Unnati aims to reach 50,000 farmers, and 15-20 percent are expected to be women. To date, more than 2,500 women have benefited from the program.

Our New World partnership is bringing safe water access, sanitation, and women and youth empowerment to developing countries. When it comes to addressing water challenges, since 2014, New World has provided access to improved water, sanitation and/or enhanced water management to approximately 150,000 people. Related to women empowerment, this Coca-Cola and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnership helped found a women cooperative of apiculture (beekeeping) in Turkey. The “Queen Bee” project is helping women become business owners and income earners in a community for the first time.

Bringing Several Sustainability Initiatives under One Climate Goal

Recognizing the tremendous impact various components of our operations and supply chain have on our climate footprint, in 2013 we decided to bring several sustainability initiatives under one goal: to reduce the carbon footprint of the Coca-Cola “drink in your hand” by 25 percent by 2020. Progress toward this goal involves reducing emissions from manufacturing processes as well as emissions associated with growing our ingredients, producing our packaging, and distributing and refrigerating our products.

“Achieving maximum impact from sustainability efforts requires identifying and implementing integrated programs, such as those that simultaneously benefit women, water and agriculture in the case of Coca-Cola.”

We look across our entire value chain to implement locally relevant programs designed to help meet this target. Outside of greenhouse gas emissions associated with our refrigeration equipment, we look to other priorities that have the greatest potential to reduce emissions, including packaging (representing 25-30 percent of our reduction target) and agriculture (representing 20-25 percent of our reduction target). At the end of 2016, we had reduced the carbon footprint of the Coca-Cola “drink in your hand” by 14 percent. Contributing to 2016 progress was the distribution of more than 12 billion PlantBottle™ packages, which have a lower material carbon footprint than virgin PET, as well as the placement of 623,160 units of HFC-free refrigeration equipment.

Part of our long-term vision is to also contribute meaningfully to the “circular economy,” in which materials are used and reused. An interesting intersection offshoot to packaging is women empowerment and recycling. Through our 5by20 program, artisans of Acacia Creations create fun, eco-friendly decorations for profit, transforming Coca-Cola beverage packaging and unused telephone wire into “canimals,” such as giraffes, elephants, dinosaurs and reindeer. Acacia Creations has helped connect more than 1,000 artisans across six countries with a global marketplace to sell their jewelry and home décor.

Respecting Human and Workplace Rights, Grounding Sustainability Efforts

Respect for human rights is ingrained in our culture and guides our interactions with employees, bottling partners, suppliers, customers, consumers, and the communities we serve. At the end of 2016, 89 percent of Company-owned facilities were compliant with our Human Rights Policy.

Human rights are an underlying thread that binds our sustainability work from environmental stewardship to women to education to youth development to diversity and inclusion. As an example, human rights are linked closely to our “Sustainable Agriculture” program. In 2016, we developed a sugar sourcing third-party study from Brazil, and worked to finalize studies from Cameroon, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Gabon—all top sugar-sourcing countries for our company. These studies address human-rights risks related to child labor, forced labor and land rights in our agricultural supply chain.

In 2016, we launched a Sourcing Map, which shows Coca-Cola’s sourcing locations for 11 of our top agricultural ingredients. Beyond human rights, our “Sustainable Agriculture” program and the issues it helps to address relate to many other areas of importance such as women empowerment, economic development, water management, and energy and climate impacts. Stories accessed through the Sourcing Map further reflect the interconnected nature of our “Sustainable Agriculture” program, including a project in the Citrus Fruit District of Sicily – where Coca-Cola Italy sources all of its citrus for concentrated orange juice required to produce Fanta orange – that recycles the energy potential of citrus waste.

Externally and internally, we’re leading through action in diversity and inclusion. In 2016, we signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge and continued to support women within our own organization through our Global Women’s Leadership Council.

Merging Multiple Sustainability Initiatives through EKOCENTER

A place where many sustainability solutions meet and work together is EKOCENTER. As a cross between a community center and a general store, EKOCENTER units are run mostly by local women entrepreneurs. Installed in Bottom of Pyramid communities, which are communities that are the most challenged socio-economically, it sells a wide range of products and enables connectivity from solar power. Based on community needs, EKOCENTER can facilitate other services—from mobile phone charging, financial transactions and entertainment at the EKOCENTER, to vocational training, health care and the provision of safe drinking water in the broader community. 

Established by Coca-Cola in 2013, EKOCENTER convenes and coordinates tri-sector partnerships to leverage unique capabilities, resources and expertise. EKOCENTER provides a potential business growth platform for the Coca-Cola system and our partners, and serves as a social and economic transformation for communities to improve social and economic well-being.

At the end of 2016, more than 150 EKOCENTER units had been installed across Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Vietnam, and 78.1 million liters of annual safe drinking water capacity had been installed around the EKOCENTER system. Since the end of 2014, 815,500 kWh of solar power has been generated by EKOCENTER units. In addition, EKOCENTER has created more than 750 direct jobs, more than 525 of which are held by women.