Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coke: The Green Beverage

Newsweek’s 2012 survey listed Coca-Cola Co. as the second greenest and Coca-Cola Enterprises as the greenest food company in the U.S.[1] Coke has incorporated some innovative changes in its supply chain to help conserve resources despite seeing a 12% increase production. It has established a sustainable supply chain that not only conserves natural resources and energy in production, but also incorporates green values in packaging and manufacturing. Some strategies they have used to improve their carbon foot print are: 

Investing in green energy -- In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Coke as one of the third largest green energy users in the U.S. It recently installed a landfill-gas-to-energy system in Atlanta, GA. The energy generated by this plant every year is equal to almost 48 million kilowatt-hours, which is equivalent to eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from almost 6,000 passenger vehicles. This system satisfies all the energy needs of the plant, including electricity, water and even steam. In addition to this, the entire facility has also been LEED Gold certified for using recycled raw materials, conserving energy, reducing water usage and for building a plant keeping green design in mind.[2]

Using hydrogen fueling system -- Coca-Cola Enterprises also instituted a new method for transporting products within their warehouses. Coke joined hands with a major alternative fuel technology company called Linde and switched to hydrogen powered fork-lifts for their warehouses. This helps the company achieve two key objectives; it helps Coke improve its environmental impact and also bring efficiency in their supply chain process. When compared to propane fuelled fork-lifts, which take 10-15 minutes to get refueled, hydrogen fueled ones only take 2-3 minutes.[3]
Managing water systems efficiently -- Coke has put a unique spin on the 4Rs and integrated it with their water management system. They have REDUCED their water-use ratio from 20% in 2011 to 16.3% in 2012. They also RECYCLE almost 100% of the water used in their plants and return it back to the environment. They are working to REPLENISH a significant portion of water used in their production facilities. Lastly, there is a strong focus on RISK MANAGEMENT and ensuring that Coke’s water usage does not encroach on/limit other users’ access to water.[4]
Producing recyclable beverage containers – Few years ago, Coke introduced the “PlantBottle”-- it replaced its original plastic beverage containers with recyclable bottles that are partially made from sugarcane and molasses. Although these bottles feel like regular PET plastic bottles, they are biodegradable. Coke also opened the world’s largest bottle recycling plant which cost them $80 million. The plant recycles almost 40 million kilograms of bottles every year and reduces carbon footprint by 25%.[5]

In the same “green” survey, Newsweek listed companies like Chipotle, Kellogs, Smuckers and Tyson Foods as “free passers.” Despite being multi-national companies with large R&D budgets and expert sustainability teams, these companies have failed to achieve their environmental goals. Also, these companies continue to be widely popular among customers (especially Tyson, which is one of the largest manufacturers of meat products in the country). How can we, as consumers, push these companies to adopt sustainable supply chain strategies?

[1] Newsweek, Green Rankings 2012: Greenest Food Companies in the U.S., The Daily Beast, October 22, 2012, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/galleries/2012/10/22/newsweek-green-rankings-2012-greenest-food-companies-in-the-u-s-photos.html#723b001d-f25f-492d-ac96-bb748e00e6ca
[2] The Coca-Cola Company, EPA Recognizes Coca-Cola Refreshments Among Nation's Top Green Energy Users, August 12, 2012,
[3]Murray, M., Coca Cola Turns Green, About.Com: Logistics/Supply Chain, April 27, 2011,  http://logistics.about.com/b/2011/04/27/coca-cola-turns-green.htm.
[4] Roth, B., Green Supply Chain: Coca-Cola’s Water Management Four Best Practices, Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit, http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/02/green-supply-chain-coca-colas-water-management-best-practices/
[5] The Green Supply Chain Editorial Staff, Green Supply Chain News: Coke Rolls Out New Plastic Bottle made in Part from Plant Material, November 24, 2009,  http://www.thegreensupplychain.com/news/09-11-24-1.php.

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