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Coca-Cola’s Olympic carbon-crunching

 

Before the Games in June, Katherine Symonds from Coca-Cola told us about what they would be doing to keep a lid on their Olympic waste and drive a legacy of recycling for London. Now, with the Olympics behind us and the Paralympics underway, Katherine has found time to tell us more about their sustainability initiatives – this time on the subject of carbon and reducing climate impacts.

“In my last blog post here, I explained how the Coca-Cola System is helping deliver the Games sustainably with the intention of recycling all empty soft drinks bottles, aiming to get them back on the shelf as new bottles within six weeks.

Coca-Cola vending machine at the OlympicsCoca-Cola aimed to recycle all of the bottles served at London 2012, with many being recycled in time for use again within the Games.

In this post, I want to talk about how the Games have helped us to become a more sustainable business.

The introduction of new standards and processes has been key. London 2012 initiated the creation of a new ISO standard for sustainable event management – the ISO20121 (see Fiona Pelham’s recent blog post on this) – and we began using it even before it was officially published. It has been a huge help to me in my role, helping me to identify risks and opportunities and then set clear, measurable targets for the wider Coca-Cola London 2012 team to achieve.

An important step is to make sure all our suppliers understand our ambitions – because without their support we’d have achieved far less. By setting out our ambitions at the tendering stage, we unlocked some real creativity.

One example is our investment in 14 biogas trucks to move our products around during the Games. These new trucks are powered by methane captured from a landfill site in Albury in Surrey – it delights me to think they are effectively powered by our household waste!

Biogas-powered Coca-Cola truckThe fleet of biogas-powered Coca-Cola trucks emit half the carbon of their diesel equivalents. © kenjonbro

Each vehicle has a carbon footprint less than half that of a typical diesel truck. After the Games, these trucks will continue to be used to distribute our products, ensuring that this carbon reduction benefit lasts well beyond London 2012.

In fact, these trucks should reduce the carbon footprint of the Coca-Cola System by approximately 1,500 tonnes over their lifespan. Data from the EPA estimates that this has roughly the same carbon benefit as taking 300 cars off the road for a year, or preserving 15 acres of forest for a year.

The Games also led us to acquire our new warehouse, named Voltaic after the solar panels on its roof. Coca-Cola Enterprises has signed a long-term lease with the owner, and we are now benefiting from a state-of-the-art facility which boasts all mod cons: from rainwater harvesting to motion-sensing lights, to solar heating and a ground source heat pump.

We are servicing all the London-based venues from this site just outside the Olympic Park, and after the Games it will provide another low-carbon legacy for the business.

Taken together, the biogas trucks and the Voltaic warehouse should cut the carbon footprint of our distribution system by one third.

All of these decisions have been informed by our use of carbon management. In response to the One Planet 2012 bid vision, London 2012 devised a process for measuring the carbon footprint of events. We have adopted that same methodology, and we are also working with carbon consultants Best Foot Forward to estimate and reduce the full impact of our sponsorship of London 2012.

I assembled a Technical Advisory Group to support the work with Best Foot Forward. Simon from WWF kindly joined the group, as did representatives from DEFRA, the University of Oxford, Sustainable Events Ltd, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games engage so many people, providing a spectacular opportunity to drive breakthroughs in sustainable behaviour, not least within our own organisation. The eyes of the world are on Great Britain this summer, and we hope we are looking our very best.

WWF and the Coca-Cola Company have a partnership in the UK and around the world aimed at conserving seven of the world’s most precious water basins.

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