Responding to Critics, Coca-Cola Report Touts Conservation Efforts
Claiming corporate leadership toward sustainable use of natural resources,
the Coca-Cola Co. released its annual environmental report today that
says the company's global water policies have helped it reduce water
The company used 283 billion liters of water in 2004, down 5 percent
from 2003, the report says. On average, the company used 2.7 liters
of water for every liter of product it produced last year, compared
to 2.9 liters in 2003.
The company says that it uses additional water to clean and run machines
and processing equipment. New water reuse and efficiency technology
and increased monitoring have helped the company decrease its use,
company officials said.
In the face of harsh criticism over depleting and polluting groundwater
supplies near its bottling plant in Kerala, India, Coca-Cola launched
a Global Water Initiative last year to address water quality and quantity
issues facing its more than 840 facilities worldwide.
"Since our business depends on access to water, water scarcity is
a major risk to the sustainable growth of our business, potentially
increasing costs and jeopardizing our ability to operate," the report
Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, which has campaigned
against Coca-Cola and advocates for stronger environmental protection
in that country, questions why the company would open a plant in drought-stricken
areas if water is so important to its production and profits.
Coke's vice president of environment and water resources, Jeff Seabright,
says the company is trying to offset groundwater withdraws in India
by setting up rainwater harvesting systems. Tanks will collect water
during the monsoon season and those reserves will be pumped back into
underground aquifers, he explained.
The company does take drought conditions into consideration when siting
facilities and it has reduced water usage in India by 27 percent,
said Harry Ott, director of Coca-Cola's Global Water Resources Center.
"Technically, India has sufficient water supplies, but it comes in
monsoons," Seabright said.
Srivastava contends that this strategy will not adequately recharge
groundwater supplies, which the majority of people in the nearby community
rely on for agriculture and their livelihoods.
Srivastava and other environmentalists are weary of the company's
efforts, saying it may be greenwashing. Although, Srivastava said
he would "welcome any announcement of any genuine initiatives."
Coca-Cola is riding the trend of corporate social responsibility,
said Maj Fill-Flynn, a policy analyst at Public Citizen in Washington.
"They're starting to feel the heat," she added.
For its part, Coke says it is not driven by profits alone. "We're
paying attention to emerging signals from the United Nations and environmental
activists," Seabright said.
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. India Resource Center is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of corporate accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.