Most Soft Drink Makers Lack Recycling Goals

by | Sep 13, 2011

Only three out of eight major soft drink companies have recycling goals, according to a study by Green Research.

PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, and Nestlé Waters North America all have recycling goals, according to Benchmarking Sustainability Goals: Non-Alcoholic Beverages. But Coca-Cola Amatil, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola HBC, Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group and FEMSA do not.

Green Research classifies targets as “recycling” goals when they deal with operating or fostering take-back operations to reclaim materials from customers. Such goals include:

  • PepsiCo’s target of creating partnerships that promote the increase of U.S. beverage container recycling rates to 50 percent by 2018.
  • The Coca-Cola Company’s goal to recover 50 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans used annually by 2015.
  • Nestlé Waters North America’s 60 percent recycling goal for PET bottles in the U.S. and 85 percent goal for Canada.

Green Research found that the major makers of non-alcoholic beverages have announced an average of six public environmental goals each, though the number of targets varies widely from company to company. Coca-Cola HBC has the most, with 13, while Coca-Cola Amatil has just two.

The companies studied have a total of 49 specific goals, with 13 of them (30 percent of the total) dedicated to water use and another 10 to greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling is the third-most common issue addressed by the sustainability goals of these companies (see chart, above.)

The study only counted goals that are likely to produce concrete sustainability benefits, excluding from its count more theoretical targets such as, “Build case studies that contribute to biodiversity.” Green Research also excluded any retrospective goals, focusing only on goals in effect for the reporting year or beyond.

The study said that the soft drink industry is unique in that water-use goals outnumber greenhouse gas reduction goals. In comparison, a Green Research study of the alcoholic beverage industry found water goals on par with GHG targets. The alcohol industry study revealed substantially less focus on recycling and packaging goals than in the non-alcoholic beverage industry, Green Research notes.

All the soft drink makers in this week’s study have water-use goals. But the report said that the goals of FEMSA (water neutrality) and Amatil (water use ratio improvement), while quantitative, lack time specificity. Nestlé Waters North America has said that it intends to improve its water use ratio but indicates neither a quantitative target nor a deadline, the report said.

Neither Nestlé Waters North America nor Amatil have goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Green Research said. In the case of Amatil this may be because the firm placed a higher priority on water and, as its 2010 sustainability report notes, “energy costs presently represent just 3 percent of our owned operating cost.” But the company is stepping up efforts to save energy in response to carbon-related legislation in Australia, Green Research said, while Nestlé aims to have a carbon reduction plan in place by 2012.

FEMSA is the only firm with a renewable energy goals, Green Research said: to meet 85 percent of the energy needs of its Mexican operations with wind power by 2013.

None of the soft-drink makers have yet announced any supply chain goals. Since the supply chain can account for a significant share of environmental impacts in the beverage industry, Green Research expects companies to introduce supply chain goals in the future.

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