Corporate Social Responsibility with Renewable Power, is Coca-Cola Next?

Companies are buying renewable energy to comply with voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability goals. Is Coke Next?

Corporations around the country and globe are finding new ways to comply with their own, voluntary and self-imposed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals. CSR is frequently explained as the “triple-bottom-line” or “3P concept”: people, profits and planet. Also, companies frequently have voluntary sustainability goals. Here are a few examples of companies working to achieve their CSR goals with renewable power:

In fact, 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies and 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies have climate and energy goals. Renewable energy is pulling double-duty for these companies: renewable power is a key resource in achieving CSR goals, but since renewable energy prices are stable over long periods of time, renewable power also helps companies reduce risks associated with variable energy prices. The Fortune 100 companies with climate and energy goals are collectively saving $1.1 billion annually as a conservative estimate.

It’s no secret that Coca-Cola has a long-standing and positive image in its home region of the South. Just recently, the company announced it has created its first ever fossil-fuel-free bottle, by using plants. But the plant bottle is just one small piece in Coca-Cola’s broader CSR and sustainability goals. Is renewable power next? 

In 2010, Coca-Cola reported that the company consumed 58.8 billion megajoules of energy. Manufacturing 1,000 liters of Coca-Cola product consumes about 76.8 kilowatt hours of electricity while the company consumed nearly 1.5 million megawatt hours of electricity, just for refrigeration in 2013. To help reach its sustainability goals, Coca-Cola has specifically stated it plans on sourcing 35% of its manufacturing energy from renewable and low-carbon power sources within five years. But as of 2013, based on one of the company’s fact sheets, it appears as though Coca-Cola had only received about 1% of its total electricity consumption from renewable energy. And, according to Bea Perez, Coca-Cola’s chief sustainability officer, the company has a goal of replenishing 100% of the water they use by the year 2020.

As with Yahoo, Apple, Wal-Mart and BMW, renewable power could help Coca-Cola achieve its CSR and sustainability goals. In order to generate an equivalent amount of electricity that Coca-Cola uses just for its refrigeration, it could purchase between 430 megawatts of wind energy capacity, or roughly 850 megawatts of solar power capacity. These levels of renewable energy purchases are not outrageous, considering Google has purchased over 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy and IKEA just announced a plan to invest $677.7 million (€600 million) in wind and solar power over the next five years. With new virtual power purchase agreements, like the agreement Yahoo signed last fall with an OwnEnergy wind farm in Kansas, renewable power generation does not have to be sited directly next to a manufacturing facility or data center in order for a company to benefit from its purchase.

Not only could renewable energy help Coca-Cola achieve its carbon emissions goals, but its water conservation goals as well. In addition to reducing air emissions, wind and solar power use little to no water in order to generate electricity. Because each wind turbine can save about 331,560 gallons of water annually, compared to coal-fired power plant generation, it’s clear renewable power would help Coca-Cola achieve its water conservation goals, too.

With its ambitious 35% renewable energy goals by 2020, and with key federal tax credit incentives soon expiring, it’s possible Coca-Cola could soon join other major, responsible corporations and purchase substantial quantities of wind and solar power.

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