As a global leader in the beverage industry, water quality and availability are vital to our business. Water is the first ingredient in most of our drinks, central to our manufacturing process and necessary to grow the agricultural ingredients on which we rely. Safe, accessible water is also essential to the health of people, communities, ecosystems and economies—important considerations for business growth and as we work to contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
While water stress and challenges continue to increase in certain regions, we believe the world has enough fresh water to meet growing demands if correctly managed and respected. As we work to establish a more sustainable business on a global scale, we have focused our water stewardship efforts on the areas where we can have the greatest impact: improving water-use efficiency and reuse in our bottling plants; managing wastewater and storm water discharge to prevent pollution; replenishing the water we use in our finished beverages across our communities and watersheds; and helping manage water resources in our agricultural ingredient supply chain.
The foundation of our water stewardship work is our comprehensive risk mitigation strategy. To source water responsibly and manage risks for our business and communities, we need to have a clear understanding of where our water comes from, the availability of water supplies in communities, the current and expected future stresses on the water supply (both as to quantity and quality), and the roles we can play in helping address the shared challenges in watersheds where we operate. We do this by conducting global, plant-level water risk assessments and by requiring each of the approximately 800 Coca-Cola system facilities to assess local vulnerabilities and implement plans to address them.
Continuing to Replenish the Water We Use
In 2017, we continued to replenish 100% of the water used in our finished beverages back to communities and nature, a goal we first met in 2015. Projects implemented by the end of 2017 are replenishing an estimated 248 billion liters per year through community and watershed projects globally, as estimated with the help of our many reputable partner organizations using peer-reviewed scientific and technical methods.
These community water projects are conducted with the expertise and support of many critical partners such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF), USAID, The Nature Conservancy, Water For People, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), Global Water Challenge, UN-Habitat and UNDP. You can learn more about some of these projects through our Water Map.
The replenish projects we support focus on improving safe access to water for human consumption and sanitation; protecting watersheds by improving water capture, storage and quality; and providing water for productive use, such as increased water availability or water efficiency in farming. Replenish volume contributions from these projects in 2017 were 81% for protecting watersheds, 15% for water for productive use, and 4% for safe access to water and sanitation.
Of central importance to the health of our communities is access to clean water and sanitation. Nearly 3 million people have gained access to more safe drinking water and sanitation through our water programs. Contributing greatly to this achievement are our Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) and our New World partnership. At the end of 2017, RAIN had provided safe drinking water to more than 2.8 million people in Africa and supported water, sanitation and hygiene programs in more than 2,000 communities across 39 African countries. New World, our partnership initiated in 2014 with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and managed by the Global Water Challenge since 2016, has invested in 44 projects across 19 countries since its launch. It is directly providing access to improved water, sanitation and enhanced water management to 127,000 people and has introduced women and youth empowerment activities to approximately 14,000 people.
Also in 2017, One Drop (the charitable foundation of the Cirque du Soleil), the Inter-American Development Bank, The
In the world’s most water-scarce regions, we are also pushing hard to replenish local water resources because this is where we know we can really make a difference.
Improving Our Water-Use Efficiency
A fundamental pillar of our water stewardship work is managing the water use in our worldwide bottling plants. By 2020, we aim to reduce our water-use ratio while growing our unit case volume, with a target to improve water efficiency by 25% over 2010 levels. In 2017, our water efficiency improved for the 15th consecutive year, with a 2.55% improvement over 2016, a 15% improvement over 2010, and a 29.3% improvement over 2004.
In 2004, we were using 2.7 liters of water to make 1 liter of product. That means that 1 liter of water was in the product and another 1.7 liters was used in the manufacturing process, mostly for keeping equipment clean. At the end of 2017, we were using 1.92 liters of water to make 1 liter of product, with the goal to reduce it to 1.7 liters of water by 2020. Through improved water-use efficiency, we can save around $1 billion (cumulative 2011 through 2020) systemwide in water acquisition, internal handling and discharge fees.
Water in Agriculture
With agriculture using about 70% of the world’s freshwater resources, improving water management in farming is critical to achieving overall sustainability of water resources. We also believe, however, that sustainable water use at the farm level is not achieved in isolation from other practices, but because of integrated farm management.
As part of our water stewardship and replenish work, we continue to increase support of projects that aim to improve the productive use of water, especially in areas at high risk of water stress or pollution. In many cases, our projects work to reduce water abstractions and improve water efficiency in farming or reduce pesticide use and farm runoff to reduce pollution of waterways. Examples include collaborative projects with berry farmers in the unique ecosystem of the Spanish Donana region and with orange growers in the Valencia region.
We are also working with our global partner WWF to advance the work on valuing nature and to make it practical, for example, to help farming communities establish which sustainable farming practices provide the highest benefit for protecting watersheds.
With our global and extended supply chains, our suppliers play an important role in addressing water risks of their farmers. Good water management practices, like water-use assessments and water efficiency measures at farm level are an essential part of our Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles (SAGP) and Supplier Guiding Principles, as are good pesticide and soil management. As we engage our suppliers on our 2020 sustainable sourcing agenda, we also help to address water use in our agricultural supply chain.
Engaging in Water Policy Reform
Solving water supply, quality and access gaps will require tough decisions, in many places and across all societal segments. However, we believe the ultimate responsibility for more sustainable and equitable water resource management lies with governments and public authorities. That is why we work with international policy collaboration platforms such as the CEO Water Mandate and 2030 Water Resources Group to help advise on water policy reform. As a system closely tied to water and one that works in more than 200 countries and territories, we have a unique position and expansive experience with this precious resource. We hope to provide valuable insights to relevant discussions and subsequent policies.
Learn more at www.coca-colacompany.com/water-stewardship-replenish-report and by visiting our water map.