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🗣️ Coca-Cola's Water Security Strategy

Words on Water

Photo by Maximilian Bruck / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Tom Kunetz
Guests: Paul Bowen | Former Water & Sustainability Executive | Coca-Cola Company
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[6:12] “In 2004, the board of directors of [Coca-Cola] Company recognized that water was going to be a critical issue for the company, that it was a natural resource, it was key to every product that we made. And so they said that we needed to pay attention to water, and the risks that were associated with water. Because without water, there are no coke products, there's no juice, there's no bottled water products, there's no cleaning, there's no sanitation, there's nothing that we can do without water. It is truly our single most important ingredient in what we do.”

[7:21] “At the time, there were almost 1,000 different Coca-Cola bottling facilities around the globe. All those owned by franchise partners, so the company didn't own them […]. And so we had to go to each plant and develop a risk assessment for that plant, roll the plants up into a country wide risk assessment based on the number of plants in the country, then take all those different countries and roll it up into a business unit and then roll it up into company global wide risk. And that told us then where our risks were, and how we were facing those.”

[8:05] “[There were] a variety of issues, everything from not having enough water, to not having enough clean water to having water that was too costly to social risks […]. That type of approach seems pretty obvious to us today. But in 2004, that was very novel. In fact, the company kind of pioneered some of that risk strategy.”

[9:13] “So once we looked at that, we set some very ambitious goals. […] We use a metric called water use ratio, which is the volume of water needed to produce a volume of product. And when we started the strategic plan, the typical water use ratio for a plant was somewhere between 3.5 to 4. So that would be 3.5 to 4 liters of water to make a liter of coke. And since the product is mostly water, what we would assume is that anything that didn't go into the product went down the drain. […] So we were losing a lot of water.”

[10:33] “We really did some detailed work going in and looking at where water is used in the manufacturing process. And how could we then reuse water in that manufacturing process over and over again? How can we become more efficient in doing some of that work? And so we were able to very successfully meet goals that we had set. And when I left the company, the water use ratio was […] like 1.89 liters of water to make a liter of coke. And that was a significant achievement.”

[11:19] “I like to say that the tipping point was when we went below two. For the first time we became a beverage company, that prior to that, […] most of our main ingredient, most of what we made was wastewater. And so we were able to go below two, and most of the water went into products. So we truly became a beverage company.”

[12:30] “In the same year […] we exceeded our replenishment goal of 100%. So we became a water neutral company.”

[15:30] “The risk management plan was quite useful […] in the sense that we were prepared for a lot of different scenarios that might come up. So when the virus hit in March of last year, […] there were a lot of businesses that immediately shut down. Think about all the fast food chains, all the dining, restaurants, […] that's a huge part of our business, it’s called […] on premise consumption. That volume of sales, that volume of consumption went fairly flat line. […] On the other hand, at home consumption went skyrocket. […] So we had these two dichotomies, […] which presented a problem.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "Take It From The Top With Paul Bowen")
🕰️ 30 min | 🗓️ 07/26/2021
✅ Time saved: 28 min

Additional Links:
Coca-Cola 2030 Water Security Strategy
Water Environment Federation