The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: The Coca-Cola Company

Sustainability Series: The Coca-Cola Company


March 28, 2010

Established in 1886, Coca-Cola is the world’s largest beverage company offering more than 3,000 products that include Coca-Cola®, Diet Coke®, Fanta®, Sprite®, Coca-Cola Zero™, vitaminwater®, POWERADE®, Minute Maid® and Georgia™ Coffee. Consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company’s beverages at a rate of nearly 1.6 billion servings a day. We talked to the Coca-Cola Live Positively team about their initiatives that protect the environment, conserve resources and enhance the economic development of the communities where they operate.

How does your business define sustainability?

At The Coca-Cola Company, we define sustainability through a philosophy we call “Live Positively.” Live Positively guides our business so that sustainability is a part of everything we do from our people focused programs, to our products and packaging, to our efforts to help the planet. We recognize that our business prospers and grows only when the communities in which we operate prosper. Live Positively is directly tied to the Company’s overall business plan.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

Live Positively is evident in our actions every day and encompasses environmental, workplace, community and “marketplace” (i.e., product) initiatives. Among the many examples include:

  • Coca-Cola supports several programs that encourage active, healthy lifestyles in our consumers and our employees including the Exercise is Medicine™ Campaign, a program of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and a host of prominent medical and health organizations. The Campaign aims to make exercise a standard part of the disease prevention and treatment paradigm in the United States.
  • People in communities across the nation received ongoing support from The Coca-Cola Company, which in 2008 alone contributed $45M charitable dollars in the United States.
  • We’ve set at unique and ambitious goal to recover 50 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans used globally by 2015.
  • In 2008, we invested more than $60M on recycling, including opening the world’s largest, bottle-to-bottle recycling plant, which will produce nearly 100 million pounds of food-grade, recycled plastic – an amount equal to nearly two billion, 20-ounce Coca-Cola bottles.
  • Another example is our response to consumers who are looking for ways to manage their calories. In 2008, we launched more than 160 low- and no-calorie beverages around the world and we now offer low-calorie options for nearly all our brands

What are your short term and long term goals?

Short Term

Live Positively is not a new initiative for Coca-Cola. Rather it’s an expression of who we are and what we’ve been doing for almost 125 years to make a positive contribution to the world. We now want to do a better job of sharing and encouraging others to make positive contributions in their own way. Live Positively is how we take these efforts to the next level – how we listen to what consumers tell us they want. We respond creatively, and encourage everyone to make informed choices about what they drink and how they can make a positive difference to help the planet.

Long Term

Sustainability is an integral part of our 2020 Vision, our roadmap for winning together with our bottlers. We have defined our long-term goals as:

  • Our Water Goal: To safely return to communities and nature an amount of water equivalent to what we use in all our beverages and our production.
  • Our Packaging Goal: To advance a packaging framework in which our packaging is no longer seen as waste, but as a valuable resource for future use.
  • Our Climate Goal: To use the best possible mix of energy sources while improving energy efficiency of our manufacturing and distribution processes.
  • Our Beverage Benefits Goal: To quench every thirst and need; provide and tailor beverages for every lifestyle, life stage and life occasion based on individual needs; and offer quality products and information consumers can trust all the time.
  • Our Active, Healthy Living Goal: To improve the health of our employees and our communities through education, product variety and physical activity.
  • Our Workplace Goal: To foster open environments, as diverse as the communities we serve, where workplace rights are respected and people are inspired to create superior results and make a positive difference.
  • Our Community Goal: To foster sustainable communities wherever we operate.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

Coca-Cola leaders like to describe the company as a global business that operates on a very local level. Coca-Cola products can be found in 206 countries around the world and in those 206 countries, you will find employees of the Coca-Cola system and customers who distribute and sell our products every day. Thus the biggest impact Coca-Cola can have is a very local one by committing to sustainability − be it environmental, community based or through good business and workplace practices − in every market where you can find our products.

How do you measure your progress?

Each of our long-term goals has very specific metrics against certain areas of our business. For example, for our physical activity goal under healthy active living, we have committed to have at least one physical activity program in every country we operate in by 2015 and one program in every community we operate in by 2020. By integrating our sustainability goals into our overall business goals, we have made each of our associates accountable for meeting them.

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

Our retail and foodservice customers are crucial to our sustainability efforts. Without them and their outlets, we would not have the opportunity to reach our consumers with our sustainability initiatives. Our retailers are the ones that house our energy efficient coolers and vending machines, stock our recycled packaging and provide us with a venue to educate our consumers about product choices that are best for their individual needs.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

In a world where populations are growing, where natural resources are stressed, where communities are forced to do more with less and where consumers’ expectations are expanding, sustainability is core to the food industry’s continuity and survival.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

It’s no secret that consumers vote with their wallets. And more and more consumers are demanding that the companies they support and the products they buy are made with the best interest of many facets of our society in mind.


In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom