Over the past week, leaders from government, business and civil society gathered from around the world at the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York to discuss progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Coca-Cola Company participated, joining the chorus of business voices conveying the importance of urgent and meaningful action to realize the SDGs by 2030.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, the SDGs include 17 goals on everything from ending extreme poverty to gender equality, water access and sanitation, zero hunger, decent work and clean, affordable energy. It’s clear that achieving the SDGs’ ambitions will require collaboration and contributions from all sectors – business, government and civil society, and the key contributors to this initiative were present at HLPF to work through practical solutions on what is working and how to achieve large-scale impact.
The Coca-Cola system’s sustainability priorities are aligned to all 17 SDGs, with an emphasis on areas where it can make the greatest impact. Coca-Cola is focused in the areas that were the subject of this week’s discussions including clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17).
Ulrike Sapiro, Senior Director of Water Stewardship and Sustainable Agriculture at Coca-Cola, attended the HLPF and spoke at a UN Environment session on water, exploring ways to get the world back on track to achieve SDG6 as highlighted in the SDG 6 synthesis report. Ulrike discussed the elements of the Coca-Cola system’s water stewardship programs that support SGD 6, including the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), which aims to reach at least 6 million people throughout Africa with improved access to safe drinking water by 2020.
“The private sector can make net positive impacts on the environment. For us, it makes business sense as water is one of the most important resources we depend on. We are proud that our efforts on water contribute to all targets under SDG 6, says Sapiro.”
UN Environment, David Cole
Coca-Cola also aims to achieve at least 100 percent water balance globally. Coca-Cola estimates that together with independent third-party organizations with whom it partners, it achieved water balance in 2015 ahead of its 2020 goal and continues to achieve water balance on an annual basis through the responsible use of water in our operations, the return of water to the environment and communities, and the improvement of access to water for communities. For more information on how our water stewardship goal supports SDG 6, read this new infographic.
Brent Wilton, Director of Global Workplace Rights at Coca-Cola, also attended the event, representing the progress the company has made in decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), particularly in addressing issues related to forced labor.
The other focus for Coca-Cola at HLPF was SDG 17 – partnership. Jennifer Ragland, Senior Director for Government & Stakeholder Relations, was there to emphasize the power of partnerships and the Coca-Cola system’s efforts to work together to push for progress for the SDGs - we know we can’t do it alone. We have long embraced cross-sector collaboration as a best practice for addressing global challenges, as exemplified through meaningful partnerships and programs, including efforts such as the 2030 Water Resources Group, and participation at important events such as this one.
Three years into the SDGs, there is still much more to accomplish and those present agreed that bold, aggressive action is needed – incremental change will not ensure the results to achieve the SDGs. The focus is on action and collaboration, and that SDG awareness and alignment needs to move quickly to achieving impact at scale.
As discussions wrap at HLPF, the company will continue to engage in these important dialogues, including through participation at the UN General Assembly in September 2018. Until then, Coca-Cola will continue to partner for progress, use our voice to support the implementation of the SDGs and the collective action required to bring the world closer to reaching the 2030 goals in sustainable development.