Earlier this month, over 65 leaders from the Coca-Cola system gathered in Denver, CO for our annual Water Sustainability meeting.  This much-anticipated event took a special twist this year, with community and non-profit partners also attending and taking part in brainstorming sessions. 

A number of important partners including the World Wildlife Fund, National Forest Foundation, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, US EPA, US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited and many others joined us for the event, adding tremendous value. They provided context to our discussion of future sustainability projects, as well as feedback to improve existing work.

Water Sustainability efforts at meeting
Meeting attendees participate in volunteer activities to repair a portion of the South Platte River watershed still suffering from the effects of the 12-year-old Hayman Fire.

“Coca-Cola’s annual Water Sustainability meeting truly brings together a great cross section of practitioners from inside and outside of the Coca-Cola System.  WWF is excited to be partnering with Coca-Cola as they use their unique resources and capabilities to help protect the health of the planet,” said WWF’s Judith Hochhauser Schneider.  “Through open collaboration, we are all able to achieve what no one entity could do alone.” 

At the meeting, project leads from Colorado State University (CSU) also presented best practices from their local, Coca-Cola collaborative sustainability work. Topics included a Xeriscaping project and business school student eco-practicums. Also, an agricultural replenishment project, which is focused on implementing sustainable irrigation techniques along the South Platte River.

As part of the meeting’s larger eco-facility tour at the Denver production plant, attendees visited the Xeriscaping site to learn more about the water replenishment benefits associated with the innovating project.

“CSU’s joining with Coca-Cola to Xeriscape the Denver production plant’s front landscape will drastically reduce water use on the property. We are optimizing irrigation by selecting and designing landscaping with native and regionally appropriate plant material,” said Zach Johnson of CSU’s Landscape Design & Contracting and Landscape Business Programs.

Annual Water Sustainability meeting
Meeting attendees tend to outdoor volunteer work as part of their sustainability efforts.

Notably, meeting attendees also took an afternoon volunteer workday to help repair a portion of the South Platte River watershed still suffering from the effects of the 12-year-old Hayman Fire. These “Friends of the Forest” efforts were a continuation of Coca-Cola’s $150,000 donation to the restoration of the local watershed damaged by the Hayman Fire in 2012.

“Coca-Cola is deeply committed to water stewardship,” said Bruce Karas, Coca-Cola VP of Environment and Sustainability. “We constantly strive to safely return to nature the amount of water used in our beverages and their production, and this event will bring us one step closer to achieving that goal.  We are pleased to play a part in restoring this critical South Platte River watershed, which provides clean water to millions of Colorado residents.”

While the meeting primarily focused on water stewardship, topics including energy efficiency, recycling and sustainable agriculture were also discussed.  All ideas from the meeting will be used to further Coca-Cola’s environmental sustainability programs.

Jon Radtke is a Coca-Cola Water Sustainability Program Manager.