I spent the first 18 years of my life on a peach farm in the middle of Georgia. So by the first hour of meeting with farmers, it usually comes out. I think that’s a good thing. Farmers don’t always like the idea of a corporate guy from Atlanta coming down to their farm to give them the lowdown on some new requirement they’ll have to fulfill. But as someone who’s familiar with their challenges, I can relate to them in terms of what they’re trying to do on the farm. For me, directing procurement in sustainable agriculture for Coca-Cola is a pretty fun gig. And it just got a little bit better.
Three years ago, we set a 2020 goal to source our key agricultural ingredients from farms complying with our Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles, and we’re realizing great progress.
This week, we launched a global map that shows Coca-Cola’s sourcing locations for 11 of its top agricultural ingredients. The sourcing map is exciting for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a way for us to be a lot more transparent as a company about how we make our products, and that’s something we think people are interested in now and will be even more so over time. Right now, the map displays our highest-priority ingredients in the countries where they are grown. We have been inspired by other industries, especially apparel, as well as our Honest Tea brand, in transparently communicating about our supply chain in this way. This is the first time we’ve put out this level of detail; if you want to know what country Coca-Cola gets mangoes from for its juices, go to the map. For me, and I hope for others, that’s important.
The other reason I love this project is the stories from the field. I’ve met with famers everywhere from the United States to northeastern China, and I’ve seen the successes of our sustainable agriculture practices at the farm level. This is something one rarely sees. Most people don’t know that Coca-Cola works with our suppliers and other partners to create better agricultural practices for growing tea in China, or that we’re helping mango farmers in India double their production. We want to use the sourcing map to bring those kinds of stories to the surface.
There are several stories highlighted on the map now, and Coca-Cola will continue to share those stories with the world through various channels. But when our suppliers and partners start to use this platform to tell us their stories too, that’s when we’ll know we’ve got something truly unique.
Creating a sustainable agriculture sourcing map has never been an end goal for us. It’s not just about our 2020 sourcing commitment. We want to improve the way our system tells the story of how we’re changing the way our products go from the farm to market. It’s a story that all of us have a part in, whether we think about it or not. I hope this map starts to bring more people—stakeholders, consumers, farmers, buyers—into that conversation. Of course, as an avid environmentalist and a longtime Coca-Cola fan, I find the map interesting; and I hope others do as well. If you aren’t familiar with the world of sustainable agriculture, this is a good place to learn a few things. This is just a beginning—which means it’s a great time to join us on this journey.
Ben Jordan is director of sustainable agriculture procurement at The Coca-Cola Company