Coca-Cola Goes Green: An Interview with CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer Muhtar Kent
By Andrew Shapiro
January 29, 2010
Muhtar Kent, the chief executive officer of Coca-Cola, knows the planet as few CEOs do. When I met him in Atlanta recently he was just returning from a global tour that included Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico. Such is life for the head of what is arguably the most global company in the world.
The son of a Turkish diplomat, Kent has the qualities of an ambassador. He's worldly, personable and polished. He also is a dedicated believer in sustainable business who told me that he considers himself Coca-Cola's "chief sustainability officer," saying, "I have not appointed another one and never will. That's me."
Coca-Cola and its bottling partners produce more than 3,000 beverage products around the world, an impressive and daunting number from a supply chain perspective. I met Kent and his senior team at a day-long summit they held at the company's Atlanta headquarters to share Coke's latest thinking on sustainability with some key suppliers. I was a speaker at the event and learned a lot along the way.
Coca-Cola of course has challenges in the area of health and the environment. Given growing concerns about obesity, the company has come under attack in some markets for the sugar in its drinks. And the sheer scale of the business means that it uses significant amounts of water, energy, petroleum-based plastics and other resources in its production.
To address these issues, the company has developed a broad-ranging sustainability strategy that goes under the name "Live Positively," and has integrated it with the company's overall business plan. It encompasses environmental, workplace, community and "marketplace" (i.e., product) initiatives. This sustainability strategy involves supplier partners in addition to the company itself. As Kent himself asserted during the summit, "In a world where populations are growing, where natural resources are stressed, where communities are forced to do more with less and where consumers' expectations are expanding, sustainability is core to our business continuity and survival."
Coke has established some bold goals, including going "water neutral"--returning as much water to the world as it uses--reducing its absolute carbon footprint for manufacturing operations by 5% in developed countries by 2015 and eventually recovering all its packaging so it can be reused rather than sent to landfills. To achieve these goals the company must go beyond cost-saving operational improvements and enhance its products, engage its stakeholders and suppliers and build a culture of environmental innovation that will drive future growth.
Full article: Forbes