Creating a ‘better normal’, not just a ‘new normal’
How Coca-Cola is supporting Europe’s green recovery

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed our lives. For many, this pandemic has brought grief, fear and relentless uncertainty. For others, it has meant financial hardship.   

But we have also seen people give their very best. Our health professionals have stepped up and given their all to save lives and care for the sick. ‘Food heroes’ in the food supply chain have fought hard to keep the shelves stacked. Delivery drivers have been saviors for those in quarantine. And the hospitality industry, faced with lockdowns across Europe, has worked hard to meet the demands of the ‘new normal’.

There will, however, be light at the end of this dark tunnel. The EU’s Green Deal represents a €1.85 trillion recovery plan that can help us reshape our future for the better.  

We now have an opportunity to spearhead a ‘green recovery’ and help people and businesses build back better, while also investing in resilient societies and the sustainability of our environment.

As a consumer-centric business, we observe people’s changing habits, wants and needs on a daily basis. So, we know COVID-19 has made many Europeans stop and think about the sort of future they want. 

This is why the EU’s Green Deal is so important. It is an opportunity for us to build a better, greener future for Europe by reconsidering what we took for granted and reevaluating how we will do things post COVID-19.

Coca-Cola fully supports the EU’s ambition for a green recovery.  We understand this requires commitment and action from a wide range of actors to bring scale to the solutions that are needed. To this end we have signed up to initiatives such as the “Green Recovery: Reboot and reboost our economies for a sustainable future” initiative introduced by Pascal Canfin, EP Environment Committeee Chair in Europe and Business for Nature’s Call to Action globally, plus many others.

We welcome the guidance given by the European Commission to member countries to invest EU recovery funds in priority areas such as the circular economy, improving our environmental infrastructure and protecting and restoring Europe’s biodiversity. These reflect our own global sustainability priorities.

We have and will continue to cut our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We support Europe’s ambition to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We have set a global Science Based Target, aligned with the Paris Agreement, to reduce by 2030 our total GHG emissions across our full value chain by 25 percent from where they were in 2015, no matter how much our business grows.

We are also tackling the important issue of packaging waste. We have set a global goal of collecting and recycling 100 percent of the bottles and cans we sell by 2030.  

To achieve this in Europe we are pledging our support for the introduction of well-designed Deposit Return Schemes, helping us to get every bottle back so that the material can be recycled and re-used in the form of new bottles and packaging. We will meet and go beyond the legal requirement to use 25 percent rPET in our bottles by 2025. In Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, our plastic bottles will be made of 100 percent recycled PET and we will continue to accelerate our progress across other countries in the EU.

We have set a global goal of collecting and recycling 100 percent of the bottles and cans we sell by 2030

Ultimately, we could envision a future where we no longer use plastics made from virgin oil. At the same time we eliminate unnecessary or hard-to-recycle plastics, and innovate to find new ways to deliver our drinks — from package-less dispensers and refillables, through to new packaging concepts like our paper bottle.

But investing in recycling innovation, infrastructure and networks requires long-term planning, a long-term perspective and legal certainty for operators. That means acknowledging that fully recyclable, collected and recycled packaging materials, must be considered as a legitimate part of that circular thinking. Such a closed loop for plastic beverage packaging should be encouraged and incentivized, rather than be subject to taxes and bans as we see in certain member countries.

The impact of climate changes is also at the forefront of many people’s minds. Floods and droughts in Europe remind us why water is the planet’s most precious resource.  The World Resources Institute estimates that 3.5 billion people may face water stress – where water availability or quality does not meet need- by 2025. And today temporary water stress has dramatically increased in Europe as a result of climate change and increasing demand.

Equally, working in partnership with WWF for over a decade means we have run projects across Europe, like the “Living Danube” partnership, to replenish water sources, restore our ecosystems and protect biodiversity. More recently, we led a coalition advocating for preserving the EU’s Water Framework Directive. For us, working in partnership with others is vital.

In Europe in 2019, we replenished 212,8% of our sales volume through 43 programs in 18 countries.

The Europe water replenish volume was more than 56 billion litters while more than 365 km2 of land and water was restored and protected.

Momentum for nature is building and our legacy and knowledge of water replenishment is a great opportunity to support the natural capital approach; that’s why we are working with partners to advance understanding of methodologies and data. Quantifying the broader societal benefits of water stewardship, such as increased yields from farmers, can unlock and scale much-needed investment into nature-based solutions. This is one area in which we think the private sector can lead and help advance this thinking.

In our latest campaign, called Open Like Never Before’ we encourage people to think differently, embrace change and, importantly, to never forget how much stronger we are together.

Together, we can help Europe make the most of this moment, by emerging stronger and creating a better shared future for all.