Coca-Cola – Refreshing the World?

Coca-Cola's mission is to "refresh the world" with beverages but the world we live in is increasingly impacted by climate change. What actions has Coca-Cola taken to "refresh the world" environmentally and what more should it do?

Coca-Cola mission is to “refresh the world” through its beverage offerings but it also should be through sustainable activities.[2] Recently, Coca-Cola faced challenges with access to water in India resulting in a plant closure.[3] It also faced similar issues in California where a recent drought turned consumers focus onto companies excessively using natural resources.[4] Similarly, the company is facing regulatory pressure when it comes to emissions both in the U.S. and in markets such as China.[5] Coca-Cola has acted to reduce its water usage and its emissions but more can be done to truly “refresh the world”.[6]

Progress in the Right Direction

Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource.[7] One of Coca-Cola’s main water reduction goals is to minimize the water use ratio by reducing the amount of water needed to make product. Over the last several years, it has reduced the water use ratio from two liters per liter of product produced down to the low ones.[8] Additionally, wastewater is being treated at all production plants with the goal of being clean enough to support an aquatic life. [9] The last major area that Coca-Cola is working on in is replenishing the water that it uses through a variety of initiatives such as improving safe access to water, protecting watersheds, providing water for productive use, and engaging in educational awareness campaigns through various partners.[10]

Coca-Cola has also acted to reduce its emissions in both its fleet and its vending machines. Back in 2011, the company started transitioning its fleet to hybrid and all electric vehicles. These changes not only helped from an emissions reduction standpoint, but they also helped the company reduce costs when gas prices were nearing four dollars per gallon.[11] In 2013, the company started changing its service vans to hybrid service vans to save an estimated fifteen to twenty percent on fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 400 tons over a 10-year lifespan.[12] Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) accounts for 40% of Coca-Cola’s carbon footprint and is the largest single contributor. In the last several years, Coca-Cola has worked to replace HFC coolers and vending machines with environmentally friendly refrigerants. As of 2010, 120k machines have been replaced reducing an equivalent of 630k tons of CO2 emissions over a 10-year lifetime.[13]

Steps to Refresh the World

All these actions taken by Coca-Cola is progress in the right direction, however the company needs to do more given its position as a global company and its access to resources. If it’s mission is to “refresh the world,” it should do so not only in terms of refreshing consumers, but also in terms of refreshing the environment that it impacts.[14] In terms of legislation lobbying, Coca-Cola is a part of both the American Beverage Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, two groups relatively opposed to any meaningful change to climate legislation.[15] It’s critical that Coca-Cola uses its position in these two organizations to influence them to change their views on climate change and support sustainability legislation. The company also needs to improve on is water usage in areas with severely limited water supply or extreme drought. Instead of bottling in drought areas, it should weigh the environmental impact of producing elsewhere and bringing product in. This way, a water scarce area isn’t being further taxed by company making profit off a limited resource. Lastly, while Coca-Cola may have made strides in hybridizing and going electric in its own fleet, many of the suppliers and third-party trucking services it uses are still using emission heavy trucks. Coca-Cola should require that suppliers meet a higher level of environmental standards. These three actions will help set an example to the industry of the type of action that needs to be taken to combat climate change and truly help refresh the world.


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[1] (Main Image Source) Coca-Cola Journey, “Coca-Cola Electrifies the Road With Hybrid Electric Fleet”,, accessed November 2016

[2] The Coca-Cola Company, “Mission, Vision, and Values”,, accessed November 2016

[3] Wall Street Journal, “Coca-Cola Closes Plant in India”,, accessed November 2016

[4] CNN Money, “Drought turns Californians against water bottling companies”,, accessed November 2016

[5] Humanosphere, “New climate deal hailed as ‘monumental’ despite some doubts of impact”,, accessed November 2016

[6] The Coca-Cola Company, “Mission, Vision, and Values”,, accessed November 2016

[7] McKinsey & Company, “Water as a scarce resource: An interview with Nestlé’s chairman”,, accessed November 2016

[8] The Coca-Cola Company, “Water Stewardship”,, accessed November 2016

[9] The Coca-Cola Company, “Water Stewardship”,, accessed November 2016

[10] Coca-Cola Journey, “Collaborating to Replenish the Water We Use”,, accessed November 2016

[11] Coca-Cola Journey, “Coca-Cola Electrifies the Road With Hybrid Electric Fleet”,, accessed November 2016

[12] Coca-Cola Journey, “Driving Change: Coca-Cola Transforms Service Vans to Hybrid Vehicles”,, accessed November 2016

[13] Forbes, “Coke’s Planet-Friendly Vending Machines”,, accessed November 2016

[14] The Coca-Cola Company, “Mission, Vision, and Values”,, accessed November 2016

[15] New York Times, “Coke, Pepsi and Climate Change”,, accessed November 2016


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Student comments on Coca-Cola – Refreshing the World?

  1. Love this post! I have done several consulting projects for Coca-Cola and am pretty familiar with the company. As a company with brand equity of more than 80B USD and unbelievable brand awareness, I do believe Coca-Cola has huge responsibility to drive people’s attention on climate change issue more proactively. Currently most of its advertisements are still product sales driven. I would love to see if Coca-Cola could leverage its brand image to launch more advertisement campaign to draw public’s attention on climate change issue.

  2. It is very interesting to understand how Coca-Cola is working towards achieving sustainability, especially how it managed to reduce by half the amount of water in every liter of Coke. Would be interesting to understand the cost impacts of such measures. Is Coke spending a lot of money to become more sustainable or do these measures actually reduce the company’s costs?

  3. The water ratio is a very interesting sustainability initiative. I found their reduction captivating and the reduction from 2:1 ratio to low 1s:1 very impressive. I had also never considered the impact on hybrid vehicles for delivery? Are these changes to hybrid vehicles subsidized in anyway? You provide interesting recommendations for the future of Coke’s sustainability effort too? As Coke continues to worry about its future in consumer’s preferences, and shrinking consumption patters and margins, I wonder how expensive some of your proposed improvements efforts may be for Coke and whether that will deter Coke from further pursuing these efforts.

  4. Great post! As an intensive water consumer, Coke is facing many constrains from water scarcity. The example of plant closure in India is a great example that sustainability will have a server impact on a company’s financial results. I think that one thing that Coke should do is to drive sustainability in the direction of upstream and downstream – align sustainability goal with suppliers and increase consumer awareness. As a global leader, Coke needs to influence more firms and people to understand the importance of sustainability and fulfill its social responsibility.

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