Can Red and Blue Make Green?
Environmental sustainability is the hot topic of the day and beverage companies are leading the pack in announcing their green efforts. Last month, Beverage Industry Managing Editor Elizabeth Fuhrman reported on a speech made by American Beverage Association President Susan Neely, who said environmental concerns were set to become an issue that could be as large as the obesity crises for beverage companies. Neely pointed out that beverage brands are prominently displayed on every package that isn’t properly disposed of, putting those companies at the forefront of the issue. But the latest round of news shows the industry is taking steps much farther than simple litter reduction.
According to Peter Capozucca, author of a new study conducted by Deloitte Consulting for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, sustainability is “unlike any business issue consumer businesses have encountered in the past. The industry’s large environmental footprint and unique dependencies on agricultural inputs, water and packaging make sustainability a critical strategic issue that consumer packaged goods companies must address proactively.”
The survey found that 85 percent of U.S. consumer businesses have sustainability initiatives, and despite the prevailing wisdom, the efforts are self-inspired, rather than Wal-Mart-led. The retail giant’s packaging-reduction initiatives and regulatory standards score high on the reasons many companies are taking action, but 60 percent say internal priorities are the key.
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo both recently announced major environmental initiatives. Coca-Cola earlier this month pledged to reduce water use, both in its own and franchise bottler plants; recycle water used in the manufacturing process; and replenish water in communities. The announcement was part of the company’s partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, and includes $20 million to protect the world’s seven most important freshwater river basins.
For its part, PepsiCo was named the 2007 Energy Star Partner of the Year by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, due to its energy management efforts and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The company also joined the United States Climate Action Partnership, which has called on the federal government to enact legislation that will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The beverage industry truly seems to have learned its lesson from the obesity experience. It has been accused of not understanding the enormity of the obesity issue and how much blame it would shoulder for the problem. This time, it is getting out ahead of the issue and letting the public know just how much it is doing before it can become an environmental scapegoat.
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