This case is about the global water sustainability initiatives undertaken by The Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola). It details the activities undertaken by Coca-Cola's management and employees to contribute to the benefit of the society and community in which the company operated by pledging to return all the water it used in its operations back to the environment. On June 5, 2007, Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a global project that focused on water conservation. Coca-Cola being one of the largest beverage companies in the world had water sustainability initiatives as an integral part of its corporate agenda since water was an important element for the company to run its business. According to the company, it was aware of the environmental impact caused by a business of its scale and therefore it had decided to implement a wide range of initiatives to improve the quality of life of its customers, the workforce, and the society at large. While Coca-Cola's water sustainability initiatives earned accolades from its collaboration partners, it came in for severe criticism from activists and environmental experts for allegedly depleting groundwater resources in India. The company was also accused of dumping toxic and hazardous waste materials near its bottling facilities, and discharging wastewater into the agricultural lands of farmers. Moreover, Coca-Cola was one of the most boycotted companies in the world for its alleged unethical business practices in developing countries. Notwithstanding the criticisms, the company championed various water sustainability initiatives such as rainwater harvesting, restoring groundwater resources, efficient water resource management, watershed protection, community water initiatives, and global awareness and action initiatives for educating the underserved communities the significance of water. The company was also criticized for spending millions of dollars to project a 'green' and 'environment-friendly' image, while failing to take care of the basics to operate its business in an ethical manner. The critics felt that this was an attempt at greenwashing as Coca-Cola's business practices in India had tarnished its brand image while its sales had taken a beating. However, the company intended to become a water neutral company by 2010. ISSUES
* Understand the issues and challenges faced by Coca-Cola with regard to its global environmental responsibility initiatives. * Understand the concept of sustainability and its relevance in today's businesses. * Understand the need for a vision, policy, and governance structure in order to achieve the goals of sustainability management. * Understand how environmentally and socially responsible behavior leads to sustainable business performance. * Develop a framework to measure sustainability initiatives. * Determine how a company's stand on social and environmental issues can contribute to enhancing its corporate image. * Understand the reactions of consumers, environmental experts, and critics to Coca-Cola's water sustainability initiatives. "The Coca-Cola Company pledges to return the water we use in our beverages and their production; to achieve balance in communities and in nature with the water we use. This goal is, admittedly, aspirational. It will be a multi-year journey for our entire system, but it is a journey we have begun and will continue to pursue." - E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company, in 2007. “Coke has done 'greenwashing' very well. They shifted their image to one of a green and socially responsible organization, but they're not changing their operations." - Richard Girard, Researcher, Polaris Institute3, in 2008.
On March 26, 2008, US-based leading beverage company, The Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola), received the US Agency for International Development's4 (USAID) '2007 Alliance of the Year' award for its water sustainability initiatives in...