Coca-Cola to Receive Top Sustainable Development Award from World Environment Center

Coke bottle forest sceneNext time you pop open a coke or drink a VitaminWater, sip on this.Β  The 2009 World Environment Center’s (WEC) Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development will be awarded to the Coca-Cola Company.Β  The award recognizes the beverage giant for achievements in water stewardship, packaging, climate change, and energy management.

Watching out for Water

Coca-Cola’s Signature Contribution is in the area of water stewardship.Β  The company’s goal is to restore to the environment all water that is used to produce of its products.Β  It aims to achieve this through reducing the amount of water in the manufacturing process, recycling water back into natural systems, and locally relevant conservation projects.Β  With a new report predicting global water shortages by 2020, increased attention to water and natural systems seems increasingly imperative.Β  (Hopefully Coca-Cola includes the water needed to grow and process the sugar in its calculations – approximately 200 L of water per can in Europe.)

Perfecting the Package

Coca-Cola recently announced a $400,000 award to Michigan State University to create a new Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability.Β  The center will allow “unprecedented” collaboration between industry and academics as both work towards innovative, more environmentally sound packaging alternatives.Β  Coca-Cola also partnered with TerraCycle to transform reclaimed billboards, misprinted labels and cans, and old glass bottles into new products for sale.

Is it Really Eco-Coke?

There is no question that the achievements celebrated by the WEC represent positive steps forward.Β  Coca-Cola’s greening of its delivery fleet also deserves some kudos.Β  However, some have questioned the company’s practices in places like India, citing a worsening water situation and local pollution.Β  Additionally, the company uses high fructose corn syrup to sweeten its U.S.-sold beverages, leading to a whole host of other sustainability (and health) issues.

It’s nice to see steps forward, and perhaps someday soon – even in the beverage industry – we’ll be able to see the forst for the trees.

Image Credit: The Rocketeer at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

  1. Green Luvin'

    I wonder how much money Coke has given to the WEC. Coke is such a big company that these few bones do not make a dent in the environmental/health destruction they have cause globally.

  2. hannah


    WEC members represent a variety of business sectors and conduct operations in all regions of the world. Members are selected based on their practice of sustainable development in their own operations and their commitment to advance sustainability globally in partnership with stakeholders. Current members include:
    * Syngenta
    * Chrysler
    * General Motors
    * Johnson Controls
    * Volkswagen
    * ABN AMRO
    * Arch Chemicals
    * Bayer MaterialScience
    * The Dow Chemical Company
    * Dupont
    * Boeing
    * IBM
    * Intel
    * Pitney Bowes
    * Ricoh
    * AECOM
    * Cemex
    * CH2M HILL
    * ENSR
    * Beiersdorf AG
    * Black & Decker
    * Marks & Spencer
    * Philips Electronics N.V.
    * Wal-Mart Stores
    * The Coca-Cola Company
    * Alcoa
    * Rio Tinto Alcan
    * Vale Inco Ltd.
    * Chevron
    * Occidental
    * Schlumberger
    * Shell
    * Total
    * Abbott
    * AstraZeneca
    * Bayer HealthCare
    * Boehringer Ingelheim
    * Bristol-Myers Squibb
    * Johnson & Johnson
    * Merck KGaA
    * Novartis
    * Roche
    * Sanofi-Aventis
    * InterGen Services, Inc.

    These are the companies who make up this so-called world environment center! So what exactly is the significance of this award???

  3. hannah

    Previous recipients of the WEC Gold Medal are: The Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, International Paper Company, Eastman Kodak Company; Philips Electronics N.V., Compaq Computer Corporation, Alcoa, Ciba-Geigy Limited, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., Xerox Corporation, Procter & Gamble Company, Rohm and Haas Company, IBM Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company, The BP Group, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company Exxon Corporation and 3M.

  4. Sherry

    We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources.OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. Oil is finite. We are using oil globally at the rate of 2X faster than new oil is being discovered. We need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail ourselves out of our dependence on foreign oil. Jeff Wilson has a really good new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. He explores our uses of oil besides gasoline, our depletion, out reserves and stores as well as viable options to replace oil.Oil is finite, it will run out in the not too distant future. WE need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail America out of it’s dependence on foreign oil. The historic high price of gas this past year did serious damage to our economy and society.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV’s instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. WE should never allow others to have that much power over our economy again. Every member of congress needs to read this book.

  5. Milkweed

    Thanks Hannah.

    When I saw this post, I wondered how in the WORLD Coca Cola could possibly receive a “top sustainable development” award, based on what I know about their corporate practices. Now that I see that Shell Oil has received the same award, and who the decision-makers on, I understand. What a sham.

    This looks to me like a case of greenwashing so absurd as to really be laughable.

    It makes me wonder: could sustainablog consider some investigative reporting on topics like this?

  6. hannah

    “Follow the membership trail: Many companies boast about the virtues of their environmental policy and performance but hide their anti-environmental activism behind the banner of an industry association to which they belong. Find out what industry association companies are members of and check and see what their policies are. Assume that all individual companies support the trade associations policy positions until such time as they publicly state that they don’t agree with them or they resign. (See the article on the third party technique, a central plank in most PR campaigns).”

    plus the socalled gold medal chief juror is the same guy year after year….

  7. Pamela McLeod

    Thank you for the comments. Points taken, and I will be a bit harsher in my critiques in the future. I would like to believe that even small steps forward are better than none – and that by keeping the dialogue open we are still raising consciousness. Even among the greenwashing. However I should have been more pointed and hard-hitting in my questioning of “eco-Coke” (which to me sounds like such a ridiculous concept in the first place).

  8. Patrick Laureys

    I know it may be hard to believe that a large company like CC could be interested in environmental issues, but think about this: if they’re NOT interested in them they will undermine the sustainability of their 450 products. So they’d BETTER be interested. And I truly believe that they are. Just because they’re BIG doesn’t mean they’re necessarily BAD.

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