Following the launch of our 2014/2015 Sustainability Report, we took the time to sit down with a few subject matter experts within The Coca-Cola Company to hear their perspective on our performance. Here, Ben Jordan, procurement director of global sustainable agriculture at The Coca-Cola Company, shares his unique insight into the company’s sustainable agriculture program and reflects on the progress the Coca-Cola system has made towards our 2020 sustainability goals.

It’s been two years since The Coca-Cola Company set the goal to sustainably source its key agricultural ingredients by 2020, where are we now in terms of sustainable agriculture?
We’re on track. We’ve dedicated these first two years clarifying our pathway to achieving our target by the end of 2020 – and we’ve made steady progress in the sustainable sourcing of several commodities. We are working toward engaging suppliers of all our key ingredients through our new step-wise approach to compliance, providing a framework toward reaching compliance with our Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles (SAGP). We’ve convened 14 workshops in our eight priority sourcing regions and engaged with more than 20 of our global and regional supplier leaders to drive implementation against our 2020 sustainable-sourcing roadmaps.

You’ve said that 2015 should be a breakout year for the Company, what exactly do you mean by that?
Given the foundation we’ve built in our approach and execution over these past two years, we see 2015 as the year where we see the fruits of that labor, so to speak. We’ve completed our planning; and now we’re communicating and engaging with suppliers about assessments, audits, measurement of progress, and validation of performance so that they can work towards sustainability certification. Through our program, we aim to establish and maintain reliable, long-term relationships with suppliers; support the many environmental and social aspects of sustainability in communities where our ingredients are grown and processed; and accelerate progress toward our 2020 goal.

And what do you think your biggest achievement has been so far?
I think our biggest achievement so far has been in the power of our partnerships across our system and with external partners. Achieving our goal to sustainably source ingredients globally requires market transformation. First and foremost, we partner with our bottling partners and suppliers in order to actively stay on our continual improvement path. Our industry and nonprofit partnerships play a crucial role in achieving the changes we seek across the globe.

You come from a farming background. How do you think that’s influenced your work?
It’s definitely influenced how I approach my work. I grew up on a peach farm in rural Georgia. Coming from that type of an upbringing gives me an appreciation for what these folks are trying to do and what we’re asking them to do. When I go in I’m not just Coca-Cola going in and asking them to change their practices or do more or meet some requirement that we have. I genuinely appreciate their efforts. There’s an understanding I have for the type of work they’re advancing, and for the types of questions or challenges they might have.

Ben Jordan

It’s been fascinating for me knowing what I do about farming and traveling across our system seeing first-hand how farming is practiced in different places.  For example, take corn in the U.S. versus China.  It’s the same crop but the cultures are different, the agricultural systems are different. It’s just been so interesting and exciting to understand more about each of those variations across the world and then think about how we implement our 2020 goals in the context of those different systems.

Click here to read more about our sustainable agriculture programs and track our progress against all of our sustainability commitments in our 2014/2015 Sustainability Report.

Ben Jordan is procurement director of global sustainable agriculture at The Coca-Cola Company.