In 2010, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution to officially recognize the human right to water and sanitation, declaring that clean drinking water and sanitation are “essential to the realization of all human rights.” The UN called upon nations and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity building and technology to help all countries provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all residents.

At Coca-Cola, we respect the human and ecological needs for water. As a beverage company, we recognize the indispensable nature of water in advancing healthy ecosystems, communities, business, agriculture and commerce. We also are engaged in internal and external discussions about what it means in practice to respect the human right to water and sanitation. Through our water stewardship program, we have implemented a rights-based approach to water. We require our operations to assess vulnerabilities to community water sources, determine potential impacts from our water use and discharge of treated wastewater, and then address potential issues in a Source Water Protection Plan.

Meeting international, cross-sector standards

As a participant in the UN Global Compact (UNGC), we are one of a number of businesses committed to aligning our operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. One of the UNGC’s initiatives is the CEO Water Mandate, a unique public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. We were one of the first six companies to commit to the Mandate when the UN launched it in 2007. You can see our progress against the Mandate’s principals here.

As part of our participation in the CEO Water Mandate, we helped fund and develop the Water Action Hub, a website that helps NGOs, governments, and communities connect and collaborate on water issues of mutual interest. The Hub connects stakeholders working on such wide-ranging issues as safe water access, water efficiency, storm water management, sustainable agriculture, source-water protection, effluent management and more. The site also provides profiles of specific water-stressed regions and descriptions of water-related projects in progress. We have also worked extensively with the CEO Water Mandate and other stakeholders on a guide for business respecting the human right to water and sanitation.

In 2015, the CEO Water Mandate published its initial Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation. We have evaluated our rights-based approach to community water issues and found that it aligns quite well with the Mandate’s guidance. Our approach is embedded within our water stewardship program (which has an audit and governance program in place). This requirement includes the development of Source Vulnerability Assessments (or SVAs) that determine the risks present for a given water source, and implementation of a Source Water Protection Plan (or SWPP). Implementation of SWPPs remains a priority and will receive enhanced governance focus going forward. Many SVAs and SWPPs are coming due for updates in their fifth year, which will provide an excellent opportunity to close any gaps in the current plans, inclusive of community water issues.  Our environmental due diligence process requires similar assessments on source water sustainability and potential community impacts when we site new plants or invest in other businesses.

Our rights-based approach requires that our operations:

  • Ensure manufacturing operations respect and support the water rights of people, nature, business, and government;
  • Complete a basic assessment of the sustainability of the community’s source of water if the facility’s source of process water is different than the local community’s source;
  • Evaluate if the facility’s water use limits the availability of sufficient quantities of water and negatively impacts the quality of water for the people in the local community; and
  • Take actions to mitigate any adverse effects.

Standing with others for access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene

In 2015, we were a signatory to a joint statement issued by our NGO partners, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and WaterAid, on access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and freshwater ecosystem conservation. The statement is supporting a dedicated WASH goal within the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals framework, calling for a holistic action that recognizes the interdependencies of WASH and freshwater ecosystems. Other corporate signatories to the statement include our bottling partners, FEMSA and SAB Miller, as well as Diageo, Edeka, HSBC, Indiska, Lindex, P&G, Unilever and Water UK. logo

In 2012, we were also proud to be the 100th signatory of the WASH Sustainability Charter. The charter is based on sustainability principals developed by more than 50 organizations and overseen by, which promotes best practices for sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene. The charter seeks to “align WASH stakeholders around collaboratively developed sustainability principles and catalyze adoption of these principles around the world.” Signatories agreed to incorporate these principles and catalyze their adoption worldwide.