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.
- 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.
- 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%.
- 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.
- 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.