Coke’s Greg Koch Responds to 3p on Water Stewardship

Reprinted with permission from the Guardian Sustainable Business in response to RP Siegel’s recent op-ed on Coca Cola’s Water Stewardship.

By Greg Koch, managing director of Global Water Stewardship at The Coca-Cola Company

I read RP Siegel’s opinion piece on Triple Pundit, Coke’s Latest Green Offering Lacks Fizz and want to offer a brief response.

It was good to see that Siegel recognizes that we’ve invested a lot of time and effort in developing a world class water stewardship program to lead our operations around the globe. My team and I are focused intensely on doing the work that enables our global enterprise to manage water responsibly and sustainably. The Guardian asked me to share some of that work in my post for their new Sustainable Business Water Blog. Because of the nature of my job, I focused most of my comments on the work that my team and I lead.

I appreciate Siegel’s challenge to do even more to lend Coca-Cola’s voice to raising awareness about the world’s water challenges and the solutions that are already at hand if more of us are willing to embrace them.

In fact, our water stewardship strategy, a direct output from our comprehensive and quantitative risk assessment, is four-fold: plant-level performance (which is largely focused on things like water use efficiency and wastewater treatment); watershed protection; community engagement; and increasing global awareness of the need for action and collaboration on water resource sustainability.

Siegel seems to be particularly interested in the last element – our work to increase global awareness. Here are some examples of our efforts:

Our chairman and CEO, Muhtar Kent, routinely speaks about water in his interviews with media and in his speeches to various audiences. This week he was in Cancún, where, in addition to lending his voice to the call for a fair and equitable global climate deal, he also talked about the important connections between climate change and water stress. Kent routinely works to build awareness of the need for better stewardship of water with a variety of audiences inside and outside our company.

From a communications standpoint, we include information about our water stewardship efforts in multiple reports, including our Sustainability Review, our annual Replenish Report, our newly launched Product Water Footprint Report, and our annual WWF Partnership Review. Earlier this year we went a step further in transparency and awareness-raising by posting on our studies that seek to quantify the benefits of community safe water projects and watershed protection efforts, inviting readers to join in the debate to advance social and conservation science.

We also participate in global and local forums like Stockholm World Water Week and Singapore International Water Week to bring our voice to water challenges and the role business must continue to play in being part of the solutions.

Our global partnerships with WWF, USaid, UNDP and others provide robust opportunities to raise awareness about water and we work with our partners to communicate together about the importance of business working together with government and civil society to address the world’s water challenges.

While we don’t (yet) have a global marketing campaign focused on water stewardship, I can tell you that we have certainly talked a lot about it inside our company. I look forward to sharing Siegel’s opinion with my marketing colleagues.

Greg Koch is the managing director of Global Water Stewardship at The Coca-Cola Company

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One response

  1. I am glad that Mr. Koch has taken my comments in the spirit of constructive engagement as intended and gratified that he will share my suggestions with his team. Overall, I have been impressed with Coca-Cola’s effort to be responsible and forward-looking in their approach to the natural resource that not only each of them, and all of us, depend upon as individuals, but that they also totally rely on as a business in the many places around the world that they operate. And yes, I do believe that they can do much more to share the awareness that led them to those efforts with their millions of loyal customers. Why not include messaging to that effect on their product labels or in their media advertising? Indeed, why not make water awareness a new 21st century facet of their brand? That would surely get far more eyeballs on the subject than he or I could ever hope to reach through the blogosphere.

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