Coke Looking to Lead on Sustainability

Big business, I’m talking about industry behemoths, the likes of Walmart, Chevron and Clorox, have made recent moves in the direction of sustainability. Many instantly write off any action by these companies as greenwashing. It’s easy to do with Walmart’s ban on unionized labor, Chevron’s dubious Nigerian dealings and Clorox’s toxic ingredients.
However, Walmart is now the largest supplier of Organic Milk, Chevron is spending millions asking consumers to drive less and Clorox recently launched a green cleaning product. Is it possible there has been a fundamental shift in the priorities of big business? Or has Hell just had it’s first frost?
The Coca-Cola Company seems to believe sustainability is a matter of sound business strategy in the next millennium. Which is why in August of 2008, The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) brought the worlds leading environmental experts together with the worlds 150 largest retailers – the purpose, “Responding to the Growing Concern for the Environment.”

The CCRRC then made their findings available for free in a report released in late January titled, “Sustainability in Retailing.” The report outlines how retailers can positively influence three key areas of sustainability;
1) Reducing Waste
2) Reducing Carbon
3) Developing Sustainable Agriculture
The report starts by unleashing a flurry of scientific facts and predictions about global warming that will have you building a bunker in your back yard, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Using Tesco, the UK’s version of Walmart, as the poster child of “self-greening,” the report details the goals, initiatives and key learnings that will make the giant retailer a leader in sustainable commerce.
The report continues by breaking down each of the three key areas of sustainability, outlining the facts, issues and opportunities that exist, then providing solutions in the way of case studies. The CCRRC capped off the report with a 76-page greatest hits compilation of these case studies. Each using no more than one page to outline actionable steps taken to increasing sustainability, complete with goals, benefits and key learnings.
So is this another move by The Coca-Cola Company to airbrush itself green? Or, has big business woken up to the fact that their very survival as a business is dependent on eliminating waste, reducing their carbon footprint and supporting sustainable agriculture?
The report seems to point to the latter and the new Sustainability section on The Coca-Cola Company website backs that hunch. Now if they can only start helping out with the obesity epidemic.

3 responses

  1. I think big business is, indeed, “waking up.” But, does that mean that corporate boards have suddenly become populated with forward-thinking environmentalists? Probably not. What it does mean, however, is that today’s businesses are responding to a variety of different drivers for their sustainability initiatives. This list includes cost savings, looming regulations, supply chain risk management, competitive advantage, and new expectations of shareholders and consumers.

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