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April 6, 2017

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Coca-Cola campaigns hard on sustainability

SINCE returning to China in 1979, Coca-Cola has taken its social responsibility far beyond where its products even reach.

In the past three years, Coca-Cola China’s sustainability initiatives have benefited children in rural areas, victims of natural disasters, farmers running agri-tourism services, empowering women in small villages, and rare animals in the Yangtze River basin.

The company last week released its 2014-2016 Sustainability Report with the theme “We Care” to share its practices and invite more partners and individuals to join the sustainability ecological chain.

“As one of the world’s most admirable companies, The Coca-Cola Company is committed to creating long-term sustainable value for everyone connected to our business and in the communities we proudly serve,” said Curt A. Ferguson, President of Coca-Cola China and South Korea. “We care about development, but we care more about sustainable development. Coca-Cola insists on embedding sustainability concepts into its business and operations.”

In the theme song “We Care,” written by Wang Xiaokun, who won a national talent show, he interpreted “We Care” as an attitude.

“It represents our love and care for our friends and families, for the communities we grow up in, and for the environment we live in,” Wang said. “That’s what I feel about Coca-Cola’s attitude. And we should call on more people to adopt such an attitude.”

This is Coca-Cola China’s sixth sustainability report since its inception in 2006.

During this three-year period, Coca-Cola China actively worked with business partners, local governments, and social organizations, such as the One Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, and Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology, to launch over 20 sustainability initiatives in China.

Efforts have been made in seven priority areas including water stewardship, sustainable agriculture, women empowerment, safe drinking water for rural children, supplying drinking water for immediate disaster relief, plant energy management, and sustainable development strategies.

Innovation is in Coca-Cola’s DNA.

Rather than just follow normal routines, Coca-Cola China has been innovative in developing sustainability projects in China by leveraging its own business advantages to address community needs.

The award-winning “Clean Water 24” project for immediate disaster relief leverages Coca-Cola’s unique operation model — its nationwide distribution network — to provide much-needed bottled drinking water to disaster-hit regions in the fastest, and most convenient way.

By the end of last year, the Clean Water 24 project had answered to 122 natural disasters and distributed more than 13 million bottles of drinking water to 1.5 million people in 21 provinces. The shortest delivery time — one hour.

“We have a great system. We call on 8 million outlets in China. We have something like 5,000 trucks that can go out. It’s our local knowledge and our salesmen, they know where every street is and where every back corner is and they know where every turn is. So we’re proud of that,” said Ferguson.

“We don’t feel ourself as a company or a corporation. We are a citizen. We are a family. And it’s very easy to do the right thing. With your families, you know what responsibilities you have.”

Water is at the heart of Coca-Cola, and deserves all the efforts and investment the company has made to improve the local water system.

Protection of the Yangtze finless porpoises is a key initiative for water conservation that Coca-Cola is engaged in the Yangtze River region.

It is jointly sponsored by Coca-Cola, the World Wildlife Fund and Tian-e-zhou Oxbow Nature Reserve in Hubei Province.

After years of effort, the water quality of the Yangtze River has improved, and the number of Yangtze finless porpoises, which are even rarer than giant pandas, has now exceeded the original 60 and continues to rise.

“Because we produce beverages we don’t ever want to be able say, ‘wow, sorry community, we used up all your water to give you jobs.’ We want to be able to say, ‘no, we gave that water back’ so it’s a big pledge for us,” said Ferguson. “It’s not something that’s nice to do at the end of the book it’s something that’s built into the first chapter, the first page, the first sentence, of how we go to business.”

Another project, the “5by20,” provides women with learning and development opportunities in areas of culture, education, and economics.

The program helps them increase their income, improve commercial skills, and boost their social status.

It has attracted some beneficiaries to join the project as partners, who in turn leverage what they learn through the initiative to help more people and create more value for communities.

Coca-Cola’s innovative sustainability initiatives have also included “Guangxi Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative” and “Happy Farmland” — the latter to control non-point source water pollution in rural areas generated by agri-tourism through the construction of artificial mini-wetlands.

These projects become role models and are replicated all over the country.

“We got amazing partners here, and also the government has been very supportive of our efforts. Sustainability is built into everything we do,” said Ferguson. “The strong motivation behind Coca-Cola China’s commitment and efforts to sustainability is ‘We Care.’ If we don’t have a sustainable country and community in which we do business in, the sustainable business will go away.”

For Coca-Cola, sustainability has a promising future.

The company said it will continue to implement sustainability initiatives and call on more people who “care about” sustainability to join in these efforts in a bid to develop the sustainability ecological chain and create shared value.

Ferguson prioritized women empowerment, water conservation, and improving well-being of the local community as top issues Coca-Cola would address in promoting sustainability.

“Sometimes you just see so many things out there, you want to do it all, but then you don’t have any effect,” said Ferguson. “We want to have an effect and hopefully we can add more skill to this as people become more aware and our ‘We Care’ advocate as we bring people more on board and do the right thing for the environment.”


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