Environmentally, soft drinks are wateriness’s to reduce, and Coke uses some 350 billion elites of water a year, leading to accusations in some parts of the world of damaging the environment and lowering water tables. In 2002, for example, one of the company’s Indian bottling plants in the Planked district of Kraal was faced with a sustained activist protest claiming that the plant’s extraction of groundwater had adversely affected agricultural yields In the surrounding farmland and reduced the quality of water available to local villages. 1 The company’s drinks also rely on the use of refrigerated cabinets for their arresting, which made them carbon-intensive to distribute and sell. This has led to criticism of Coca-Cola from a range of campaigns using a variety of media over the years. This situation reached a low point for the company In the run-up to the 2000 Olympic Games In Sydney, hailed as the first ‘Green Games’, for which Coca-Cola was a major sponsor. Greenback and Debaters combined to launch the Spotlighted campaign, highlighting the company’s continuing use of Hacks (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) as coolants in Coke vending machines.
These Hacks do not destroy ozone like the CIFS they replaced but are a powerful greenhouse gas. The spotlight campaign subverted the words and images of Coca-Cola’s own advertising campaigns by featuring a family of polar bears on a melting Ice floe with the slogan ‘Enjoy Climate Change’, Downloaded posters featuring the bears and stickers to place on vending machines were made available online, and the campaign even managed to hijack an official Olympic Games website for a few hours to divert Web traffic onto the campaign’s website.
From that point onwards Coca-Cola has successfully regained the initiative, both by improvements In sustainability business practices and by using Its traditional trench In brand building to airframe Its business as a leader In sustainability marketing. By the 2004 Athens Games Coca-Cola had announced the phasing-out of HCI technologies and for the 2008 Games in Beijing the company installed more than 6000 coolers and vending machines in the Olympic venues that used Greengrocer cooling (a technology co-developed by Greenback).
By the time of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the company had developed a far more ambitious sustainability sponsorship strategy. The 1500 coolers used at the event gas emissions and reduces indirect emissions. Diesel-electric hybrid vehicles were used for deliveries from bottling facilities, with electric carts being used to deliver bottles within venues. Staff uniforms were made of recycled bottles with all athletes receiving a T-shirt made of recycled bottles.
Recycling bins were scattered throughout the venues as part of a strategy to divert 100% of recyclable waste away from landfills. Coke’s biodegradable ‘Bluebottle’ was used for all carbonated drinks and water at the event, with coffee being sold in comfortable cups with matching lids. Whilst staying in the Olympic Village, the athletes were encouraged to make a ledge to help the environment, and the Torchbearers for the Torch Relay were selected based on an essay competition with an environmental theme.
The overall result was to create a comprehensive sponsorship package that was as much about sustainability as it was about sports sponsorship. As Thither Boar, Coca-Cola’s Olympics Director commented, ‘The world is evolving. The focus of the consumer is also changing. One thing that we know from the research is that sustainability is important to all of our customers and consumers. It has an impact on how consumers are perceiving our brand. ‘ The company was also careful in the planning ND execution to try to make the communications effort as credible as possible.
The sponsorship plan was developed in consultation with WFM Canada and Canadian environmental organization David Suzuki Foundation. The calculation of the company’s carbon footprint and the overall evaluation of the company’s sponsorship of the games were also provided by an independent third party. For the London 2012 Olympics, the company has pledged to reach 100% recycling of plastic bottles, and has partnered with Sits UK (the waste management partner for the Games), to recycle the collected materials into 80 million new Coke bottles within six seeks of the games ending.
The evolution of Coca-Cola’s Olympics sponsorship was only one aspect of how the company had changed both its business and its approach to communications to respond to the sustainability agenda. In 2009 the company announced its Commitment 2020, a set of ambitious and measurable goals based around five strategic themes. By the time of the company’s 2011 sustainability report and plan it had increased to seven priorities: Energy and Climate Change: with a plan to reduce by a third embedded carbon within its drinks by 2020 and energy used by cooling equipment by 2014; ;
Sustainable Packaging/Recycling: based on a strategy to achieve zero waste from production facilities by 2014 and to reduce by 25% total material use for packaging by 2020; water per liter of product by 2020; Product Portfolio: including a commitment to improve consumer nutrition information and to ensure that all marketing and sales activity is socially responsible; Active Healthy Lifestyle: working through partnerships to promote healthy nutrition and active lifestyles; Community: including a commitment to invest 1% of annual pre-tax profit to support charitable and community partners, and to promote employee volunteering;
Workplace: to promote a diverse and inclusive culture, a safe and healthy work environment and to provide access to health and well-being programmer for employees. This sustainability strategy has been supported by the appointment of a Chief Sustainability Officer for the company in May 2011 and backed by regular Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CARS) Reporting and a new website dedicated to communicating the company’s sustainability performance, www. Coke. Com.
The company has also used social media imaginatively, with the company’s Faceable page being one of the most popular on the Web with over 27 million fans. It has leveraged this reach to mobile people to make a social contribution around the globe through its ‘Live Positively campaign (www. Leopoldville. Com/#/home). The company also created a new CARS week in 2009 with the aim of engaging all the company’s more than 70 000 employees in some form of project or event and communicating the company’s sustainability commitments and strategy internally.
The results of these communications efforts by the company were recognized when the company was made the Food and Beverage Industry leader in Newsweek magazine’s first-ever Green Rankings, and it won the 2010 CRA (Corporate Responsibility Reporting Award) along with a PR News CARS Award. Perhaps more importantly the company’s sustainability efforts became increasingly recognized by the internal audience, with 90% of employees expressing pride in working for the company because of its CARS commitments.