Coca-Cola Pumps More Money into U.S. Water Resources

Coca Cola teams with USDA to save water resourcesThe Coca-Cola company has been marking out its sustainability turf in global water preservation, including about 100 projects under its belt in the U.S. Now, Coca-Cola is ramping up its efforts. Just last week, the company announced a new public private partnership that will build on its existing relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the expectation of replenishing one billion gallons of water through watershed restoration projects.

The new partnership is part of Coca-Cola’s ambitious goal of replenishing 100 percent of the water it uses by 2020. Given the damage done to U.S. watersheds by drought and fire this year alone, that’s going to be a pretty tall order, but by turning to the public sector for an assist, Coca-Cola has a good chance of making it happen.

Coca-Cola teams up with USDA

Though water isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the National Forest System, in fact these federal lands provide drinking water to more than 60 million people across the country.

The new partnership was formalized in an agreement between Coca-Cola and the National Forest Service, which is the division of USDA that manages public lands. It will run through 2018, with Coca-Cola providing matching grants for watershed rehabilitation projects. Other partners and funders include the National Forest Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The partnership is already halfway along on its one billion gallon goal when the existing projects with the Forest Service are factored in. That includes the rehabilitation of stream channels in Colorado that had been disrupted by wildfires, and restoration of part of the Sierra Nevada watershed that serves the East Bay area in California.

Under the new partnership, a former wetland near Chicago will be restored to help replenish the underlying aquifer, invasive weeds will be removed to restore habitat in Angeles National Forest in California, and disrupted streams in New Mexico and in the Lake Michigan watershed will be returned to their natural flow.

Sustainability as a process

Between water scarcity, disposable plastic bottles, greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation, and health issues related to the over-consumption of sugary drinks, Coca-Cola has a lot on its hands.

However, as illustrated by the water resource partnership with USDA, Coca-Cola has crafted a leadership model that acknowledges the existence of obstacles and at least begins the process of chipping away at them.

Another good example is in the transportation area, where Coca-Cola has partnered with the Obama Administration’s Clean Fleets initiative to reduce emissions from delivery trucks and other fleet vehicles, putting it in the same league as major green-transitioning companies including AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS, Verizon, Enterprise Holdings, General Electric, OSRAM SYLVANIA, Ryder, and Staples.

In the context of partnering up with federal agencies, it’s also worth noting that Coca-Cola is one of a small group of leading companies that have pulled out of membership in the lobbying organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), which has been notable for its involvement in conservative-associated issues including restrictions on voting rights and reproductive rights as well as its opposition to action on climate change and its promotion of the notorious “stand your ground” laws.

[Image: Coca-Cola by Omer Wazir]

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Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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