Bea Perez, Chief Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Officer at The Coca-Cola Company, visited Mexico recently as the first stop on a global listening tour to help shape a new, future-oriented sustainability vision for the company.

National Reforestation and Water Harvesting Program

“Mexico has been a remarkable leader in our sustainability agenda," said Perez, who last visited Mexico in 2012. "When I first became the chief sustainability officer for the company, this was one of my first visits. And I saw a lot of great work here. Mexico has been leading the world for Coca-Cola in so many respects, and by sharing these key learnings they are helping us to accelerate the work on a global level.”

Coca-Cola Mexico created the National Reforestation and Water Harvesting Program (PNRCA) in collaboration with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry (SEMARNAT), the National Forest Commission (CONAFOR), the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP) and Pronatura Mexico A.C. This joint business model provides a clear example of what it means to respond to local development needs and promote the economic empowerment of communities.

The National Reforestation Program is considered the most important of its kind worldwide, because of its reforestation and soil conservation projects, water acquisition and availability actions and successful efforts to develop the regional economy.

More than 20,000 people benefit from the program, with the implementation of 21 rain-harvesting pots during the last eight years. One rain-harvesting plot in San Bartolomé Actopan, Temascalapa, is called "Fertile Land." It benefits more than 4,000 people with a storage capacity of 40,000 cubic meters to support corn and bean farmers in the area. Perez visited the area with Miguel Sánchez Navarro Redo, president of Pronatura Mexico; Eduardo Cota, director of Conservation and Ecological Restoration of Pronatura Mexico; Vivian Alegría, director of Coca-Cola Foundation and Community Affairs; with local authorities from Temascalapa and members of the community.

Understanding the National Reforestation and Water Harvesting Program

During her visit to the San Bartolomé Actopan community, Perez was introduced to additional initiatives, such as the backyard gardens, small family businesses that grow vegetables either for themselves or as an income source, and to support the sustainable development of the communities.

Tere, a pioneer in the backyard gardens operation and part of the Industrial Agricultural Women´s Unit, said, “From the beginning we have had the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation and Pronatura to learn how to plant and take care of our harvest, so around 100 families have benefited. Working together, I can confirm that we are a great team that makes everything with passion.”

To strengthen the backyard gardens projects, community households collect rain water for ndependent orchards to use to produce fruits and vegetables, allowing the community to take an active part to develop the regional economy.

Water: Essential to Economic Prosperity

“A tree is planted to help water collection, to take it to storage areas for later use," Perez said. "You have to make it available to the community and connect it to programs, so for example, for women that work in the orchards to feed their families, and improve their business economy. It is a complete cycle.”

Empowering Women

The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program will empower 5 million women around the globe by 2020. Coca-Cola Mexico is recognized for their role in the development of communities and their families, and has implemented actions to promote their growth and highlight their importance. The 5by20 initiative in Mexico has empowered more than 36,000 women, entrepreneurs and artisans from communities across the country.

“I am thrilled to be in Mexico to see what is happening on the ground because Coca-Cola can’t work without the communities," Perez said. "When the community thrives, the business thrives. This is why we set three priorities to reach our sustainability goal in 2020: water, women and well-being.”