Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require improvements in virtually all agricultural supply chains - and that includes ours. With an extensive global supply chain, we embrace our responsibility and opportunity to support and encourage sustainable agriculture practices.
As a general practice, Coca-Cola doesn’t own or operate farms. However, we depend on them to grow the agricultural ingredients we use in our products, which we largely purchase through our suppliers. In fact, approximately half of our system’s procurement spend goes toward agricultural ingredients.
Our global system and far reaching supply chain provide many opportunities to improve agricultural sustainability, and our purchasing power and long-standing relationships with suppliers and processors give us an influential voice. And we’re using it.
We have made great progress since 2013 when we set our goal to sustainably source key agricultural ingredients by 2020. Collaboration and innovation with suppliers have been critical to this progress. Together with partners, including WWF, TechnoServe, and others, we are helping suppliers and producers test and refine new techniques and methods, and are implementing programs to increase efficiency and crop yields for farmers. We recognise that smallholder farmers are especially vulnerable to environmental and economic shocks and are working in collaboration with our suppliers and partners to better understand key risks and ways to improve sustainable agriculture practices for the millions of smallholders part of the Coca-Cola supply chain.
Advancing sustainable agriculture is a big challenge. We need to identify the most successful agricultural programs, collaborate with partners to scale them up, and try to replicate them where they are needed around the world.
A good example of how we are addressing increased supply chain sustainability at the farm level is our sustainable agriculture project in Songyuan, in the Jilin province of China. With partners WWF and Cargill, our goals are to help local farmers increase corn yields, reduce post-harvest waste and reduce their environmental footprints. Following the implementation of 10 demonstration corn farms in its first year, 20 additional farms were brought on board in 2014, and our training programs were made available to many more farmers throughout the province, engaging more than 26,000 producers. Lessons learned in China will be carried to other regions to promote sustainable practices.
Our Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles (SAGP) set expectations for ingredient suppliers to address agricultural sustainability issues and encourage better growing practices. This includes the protection of water resources, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, healthier soils, biodiversity preservation, among others. These expectations must be met in a world facing global challenges like climate change.
At Coca-Cola, we recognise that climate change may impact both our direct business and supply chain. Changing weather patterns could limit the supply or increase the cost of ingredients we use in our products. Most seriously, climate change could limit water resources for our operations, supply chain and the communities we serve.
And, that’s why we have engaged extensively with our suppliers and partners to help ensure we will meet our sustainable sourcing targets. We have concrete plans in place - with momentum building - on the sustainability of our key ingredients, including sweeteners, juices, coffee, tea and others.
It’s also why we are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our entire value chain, making comprehensive changes not only in our ingredient sourcing but also our manufacturing processes, packaging formats, delivery fleet, and refrigeration equipment—all contributing to our goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the “drink in your hand” by 25 percent by 2020.
Improvements to agricultural supply chains must be made by others and supported globally. We’re doing our part, along with others, and there is a growing consensus on the linkages between climate and agriculture. But this is an area where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone needs to act. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that climate change will undermine food security. As world leaders gather at COP21, the interconnectedness of water, food and energy must be discussed, and a climate agreement reached. We’ve been working toward this for years now. Every year that a climate deal isn’t reached is another year closer to 2050. It’s time.
The Coca-Cola Company’s Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles complement our broader Supplier Guiding Principles, which communicate the Company’s values and emphasise the importance of responsible workplace practices that respect human rights.
Ben Jordan is Procurement Director of Global Sustainable Agriculture, The Coca-Cola Company.
This article was originally published on the global Coca-Cola Journey website as part of a series updating Coca-Cola’s participation in events connected to the climate negotiations.