Building a company that achieves global success takes more than a popular product and stellar sales. Sharing values with consumers is vital to brand success, said Brian Kelley, chief product supply officer of Coca-Cola Refreshments. One value that Coca-Cola shares with consumers is sustainability, Kelley said during the Sustainability Summit, hosted by the FMI-GMA Trading Partner Alliance in Washington, D.C. Commitment to sustainability is a valid social purpose for the company, he said, as important as having a valid business purpose. “Sustainability is critical to making sure … we can deliver brand strength,” he said.

One way Coca-Cola continues to appeal to its 200 million customers is through sustainability, and Kelley said the company stays on track by focusing on four pillars.

  1. Global water stewardship. Kelley said Coca-Cola has kept track of water in every element of its business since 2005, and it has saved more than 3 billion gallons by improving efficiency at facilities. The company’s goal is to eventually use 1 liter of water for every 1 liter of beverage produced, through efforts such as a rain garden in Kentucky and creating a cycle of water in Napa Valley, Calif., in which water is never lost. However, Kelley said that while the company is making significant strides in water conservation, it has a long way to go, and Coca-Cola will continue to work toward its goals for global water stewardship.
  2. Sustainable packaging. Coca-Cola has long-term goals of having zero waste over the life of packaging and recovering 100% of packaging, Kelley said. While the company isn’t there yet, it does sell beverages in bottles that are 30% plant material and 100% plant material, and it recovers 43% of packaging in the U.S. “That’s real money, that’s real savings and that’s real social licenses in our communities,” he said. Coca-Cola also reduced the weight of glass bottles by 50% and of aluminum cans by 30%, and it cut PET in plastic bottles by 25%.
  3. Energy efficiency and climate protection. Kelley said Coca-Cola also aims to “grow the business without growing the carbon.” He said the company needs to get better at understanding the impact of all products. Coca-Cola’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint includes testing alternative fuel sources, expanding its hybrid fleet and having a landfill gas project in Atlanta, the largest of its kind. Kelley added that Coca-Cola aims to take responsibility for products’ effect on the environment. “If it’s in our product, we’re accountable for it,” he said.
  4. Healthier communities. Coca-Cola has a stronger community presence than some other global brands because it was built to have a local focus, Kelley said. Its products travel a fraction of the miles other products travel to get to consumers, he said. Coca-Cola also works to provide beverages that encourage a healthy lifestyle. The company wants to give consumers products that are good and that are good for them, Kelley said, and that takes work in innovation and research.

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