Coke bottles sustainability with a lot of committments

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Gurtay Kipcak Coca-Cola
Gürtay Kipcak, Director of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group

One of the largest employers in the world, Coca-Cola has 700,000 people in their system and serves 300 million customers 1.8 billion bottles of Coca-Cola products every day. Inside Investor asked Gürtay Kipcak, Director of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group, to explain the giant company’s goals for 2020, which include empowering 5 million women and fully implementing water recycling and minimisation systems.

Q: What role does Coca-Cola play in global corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

A: We have a lot of commitments. I think more than CSR, we focus on sustainability because nothing will ever bring in good results unless the model is sustainable. That is why within our system, we have sustainability officers, someone designated to ensuring sustainability.  In line with this theme, we have a strong believe in our company that we could only have healthy business if we have healthy communities. However, having said that, we all know that today’s world has so many challenges, so many issues. When we come to looks at these issues, we come to realise that nobody by themselves – the private sector, governments or NGOs – can solve those problems by themselves. The best solution would be to create synergy between these three groups, what we call the “golden triangle.” In our sustainability efforts we concentrate on water and women, the latter of which I will get to later. We know that clean drinking water is a big issue in Africa and most parts of the world. The more people don’t have access the more die, so we feel responsible to take action and that’s why we have a project in Africa called water in Africa to help ensure access to clean water. Additionally, we have committed publically that hopefully by 2020 whatever water we use we will give it back to nature by recycling and reusing water, as well as minimising its usage. For example, we have started changing our manufacturing procedures by using air-rinsing bottles instead of water, which means an additional invest but this is OK because it saves tons and tons of water. We also have projects that clean up river basins and agricultural land. Seventy per cent of water usage in the world today is used for agricultural purposes about 80 to 85 per cent of that water is being wasted because of inefficient irrigation systems. As part of our programme, we are teaching farmers to use drip irrigation systems, which is much more efficient. This is one of the other many sustainability projects we have.

Q: What other initiatives are Coca-Cola involved in?

A: Another one is called “5 by 20,” which is a commitment that by 2020 Coca-Cola will empower 5 million women. By this we mean empowerment through employment, granting access to credit, training programmes, small entrepreneurial projects, such as micro-distribution centers we currently run in Africa. In India we came up with a cooler that uses solar panels to refrigerate and on the side they can charge mobile phones, because most villages in India people have to go one to two hours ago to get their phone charged. This is specifically targeted at women entrepreneurs. We provide this technology and they pay for it through their sales.

Q: In terms of water, how do you raise awareness about sustainability, especially regarding the farmers who use inefficient irrigation systems?

A: When we approach farmers, we don’t do it by ourselves. We partner with an NGO or youth groups, who come up with a project and propose it to us. We then assist them financially or teach them. Basically, we invite youth groups to come to us to propose projects that make a difference in the lives of people.

Q: How do you gauge the impact of the projects you conduct in local communities?

A: For the “5 by 20” project, as the name suggestions, every number counts. To access impact, we have certain success criteria, with the number one criterion being sustainability. For example, in grain harvesting in villages that don’t have dependable access to water we teach them through employing a pilot project and give them knowledge to replicate it. The impact should be adaptable and applicable; it should lead to another project. It also has to make a tangible difference in lives, something that will add value. We also consider how much ownership we can create locally, because without ownership there will be no sustainable outcomes. In general, we see ourselves as a guide because of our extensive experience throughout the world. We have 700,000 people in our system making us one of the lead employers in the world, and we recognize that we have a responsibility to our 300 million customers, who consume 1.8 billion bottles of Coca-Cola products every day. Our system employees also do a lot of volunteer work. Either we do it in an organized way, or we give them flexible hours during the workweek to go out and do it themselves.

Q: In terms of the “5 by 20” project, what are the major obstacles that Coca-Cola faces achieving these goals?

A: First of all, our chairman doesn’t take “no” as an answer when regarding such public commitments. Therefore, we are there to deliver. Of course, there will be challenges, but our responsibility is to overcome those challenges. Keep in mind that we have the most sophisticated distribution system in the world. We are in 206 countries, while the UN is only in 190. In network, we have 3,000 production plants, tens of thousand of trucks and vehicles. Of course there are challenges, such as some societies being closed, but we have the capabilities to overcome them.

Q: Some of our readers are from the GCC countries. What is your presence in the GCC and what are some projects Coca-Cola is conducting in those countries?

A: We are in every country in the Middle East, and we are even in Palestine, in fact we employ about 500 people and have two plants in Ramallah. Until a few years ago, we were the largest foreign investor in the region, but now we are third because the new venture capital funds are there now. Of course water is a big issue in the Middle East, and in some countries, such as Jordan, we have a drip irrigation programme and foundation. Plus, in the Middle East our colleagues are now working on tool kits for school children to teach them how to conserve water because it starts at home. Secondly, we are working on water recycling plans. The water that is recycled goes through fish habitats and we use that water for irrigation and our plants. Water conservation programmes like this are crucial.

Q: How do you collaborate with the public sector to promote educational programmes? For example, the West has been very proactive with recycles projects.

A: In the UAE, there has been a very effective foundation that does recycling so we collaborate with them a lot. Aluminum cans are very precious and very valuable because they can easily be down-cycled, which means that they cannot be used again for food but can be utilized for window frames, etc. Used aluminum is about $1,500 per ton, so for scrapped aluminum you can create a valuable secondary product. In Turkey, we set up buy-back centers years ago and a down-cycle facility with a capacity of 20,000 tons, and we managed to collect 100 per cent of our aluminum back. Another thing we are doing internally is making cans lighter and encourage our suppliers to build recycling centers. In the end, everything is about education. For example, if you bought this can of Cola and drank it, this is yours, right? You paid for the can; you paid for the drink. Now if you throw this outside, whose fault is it?  Your own. We have to teach people this, especially to dispose responsibly.

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[caption id="attachment_6562" align="alignleft" width="170"] Gürtay Kipcak, Director of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group[/caption] One of the largest employers in the world, Coca-Cola has 700,000 people in their system and serves 300 million customers 1.8 billion bottles of Coca-Cola products every day. Inside Investor asked Gürtay Kipcak, Director of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group, to explain the giant company’s goals for 2020, which include empowering 5 million women and fully implementing water recycling and minimisation systems. Q: What role does Coca-Cola play in global corporate social responsibility (CSR)? A: We have a lot of commitments. I think more than CSR, we...

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Gurtay Kipcak Coca-Cola
Gürtay Kipcak, Director of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group

One of the largest employers in the world, Coca-Cola has 700,000 people in their system and serves 300 million customers 1.8 billion bottles of Coca-Cola products every day. Inside Investor asked Gürtay Kipcak, Director of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group, to explain the giant company’s goals for 2020, which include empowering 5 million women and fully implementing water recycling and minimisation systems.

Q: What role does Coca-Cola play in global corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

A: We have a lot of commitments. I think more than CSR, we focus on sustainability because nothing will ever bring in good results unless the model is sustainable. That is why within our system, we have sustainability officers, someone designated to ensuring sustainability.  In line with this theme, we have a strong believe in our company that we could only have healthy business if we have healthy communities. However, having said that, we all know that today’s world has so many challenges, so many issues. When we come to looks at these issues, we come to realise that nobody by themselves – the private sector, governments or NGOs – can solve those problems by themselves. The best solution would be to create synergy between these three groups, what we call the “golden triangle.” In our sustainability efforts we concentrate on water and women, the latter of which I will get to later. We know that clean drinking water is a big issue in Africa and most parts of the world. The more people don’t have access the more die, so we feel responsible to take action and that’s why we have a project in Africa called water in Africa to help ensure access to clean water. Additionally, we have committed publically that hopefully by 2020 whatever water we use we will give it back to nature by recycling and reusing water, as well as minimising its usage. For example, we have started changing our manufacturing procedures by using air-rinsing bottles instead of water, which means an additional invest but this is OK because it saves tons and tons of water. We also have projects that clean up river basins and agricultural land. Seventy per cent of water usage in the world today is used for agricultural purposes about 80 to 85 per cent of that water is being wasted because of inefficient irrigation systems. As part of our programme, we are teaching farmers to use drip irrigation systems, which is much more efficient. This is one of the other many sustainability projects we have.

Q: What other initiatives are Coca-Cola involved in?

A: Another one is called “5 by 20,” which is a commitment that by 2020 Coca-Cola will empower 5 million women. By this we mean empowerment through employment, granting access to credit, training programmes, small entrepreneurial projects, such as micro-distribution centers we currently run in Africa. In India we came up with a cooler that uses solar panels to refrigerate and on the side they can charge mobile phones, because most villages in India people have to go one to two hours ago to get their phone charged. This is specifically targeted at women entrepreneurs. We provide this technology and they pay for it through their sales.

Q: In terms of water, how do you raise awareness about sustainability, especially regarding the farmers who use inefficient irrigation systems?

A: When we approach farmers, we don’t do it by ourselves. We partner with an NGO or youth groups, who come up with a project and propose it to us. We then assist them financially or teach them. Basically, we invite youth groups to come to us to propose projects that make a difference in the lives of people.

Q: How do you gauge the impact of the projects you conduct in local communities?

A: For the “5 by 20” project, as the name suggestions, every number counts. To access impact, we have certain success criteria, with the number one criterion being sustainability. For example, in grain harvesting in villages that don’t have dependable access to water we teach them through employing a pilot project and give them knowledge to replicate it. The impact should be adaptable and applicable; it should lead to another project. It also has to make a tangible difference in lives, something that will add value. We also consider how much ownership we can create locally, because without ownership there will be no sustainable outcomes. In general, we see ourselves as a guide because of our extensive experience throughout the world. We have 700,000 people in our system making us one of the lead employers in the world, and we recognize that we have a responsibility to our 300 million customers, who consume 1.8 billion bottles of Coca-Cola products every day. Our system employees also do a lot of volunteer work. Either we do it in an organized way, or we give them flexible hours during the workweek to go out and do it themselves.

Q: In terms of the “5 by 20” project, what are the major obstacles that Coca-Cola faces achieving these goals?

A: First of all, our chairman doesn’t take “no” as an answer when regarding such public commitments. Therefore, we are there to deliver. Of course, there will be challenges, but our responsibility is to overcome those challenges. Keep in mind that we have the most sophisticated distribution system in the world. We are in 206 countries, while the UN is only in 190. In network, we have 3,000 production plants, tens of thousand of trucks and vehicles. Of course there are challenges, such as some societies being closed, but we have the capabilities to overcome them.

Q: Some of our readers are from the GCC countries. What is your presence in the GCC and what are some projects Coca-Cola is conducting in those countries?

A: We are in every country in the Middle East, and we are even in Palestine, in fact we employ about 500 people and have two plants in Ramallah. Until a few years ago, we were the largest foreign investor in the region, but now we are third because the new venture capital funds are there now. Of course water is a big issue in the Middle East, and in some countries, such as Jordan, we have a drip irrigation programme and foundation. Plus, in the Middle East our colleagues are now working on tool kits for school children to teach them how to conserve water because it starts at home. Secondly, we are working on water recycling plans. The water that is recycled goes through fish habitats and we use that water for irrigation and our plants. Water conservation programmes like this are crucial.

Q: How do you collaborate with the public sector to promote educational programmes? For example, the West has been very proactive with recycles projects.

A: In the UAE, there has been a very effective foundation that does recycling so we collaborate with them a lot. Aluminum cans are very precious and very valuable because they can easily be down-cycled, which means that they cannot be used again for food but can be utilized for window frames, etc. Used aluminum is about $1,500 per ton, so for scrapped aluminum you can create a valuable secondary product. In Turkey, we set up buy-back centers years ago and a down-cycle facility with a capacity of 20,000 tons, and we managed to collect 100 per cent of our aluminum back. Another thing we are doing internally is making cans lighter and encourage our suppliers to build recycling centers. In the end, everything is about education. For example, if you bought this can of Cola and drank it, this is yours, right? You paid for the can; you paid for the drink. Now if you throw this outside, whose fault is it?  Your own. We have to teach people this, especially to dispose responsibly.

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