Even when it became clear that the company would never achieve “water neutrality” in its entirety, Coca-Cola went ahead with its high-profile water compensation program in 2007, promising to replace “every drop” of water used in their beverages With The Nature Conservancy and other technical experts, the company devised a framework for evaluating projects and evaluating how many liters they would “return” to nature to fulfill the company's promise to return “every drop” of water used to make their beverages.
The company invests in three main types of projects. Its investments in water and sanitation are designed to expand basic services in poor communities in Africa and elsewhere through excavations, water purification projects and water distribution and metering systems. The company also finances “productive use” projects aimed at increasing water conservation and reuse and increasing the supply of water for irrigation. Finally, there are watershed protection and restoration projects, ranging from tree planting and stormwater management to high-tech irrigation projects designed to reduce the amount of aquatic crops needed to grow.
The company told The Verge that "The Coca-Cola Company and our bottling partners have long believed that we must conduct our business more sustainably and grow responsibly" and that it has to work with its partners to achieve this. . He also said that "[u] last, our goal is to help protect and conserve water resources, and bring clean water and sanitation to the people in the communities we serve."
"The nearly 2 billion liters of water that the company offset in 2015 covers little more than its" operational water ""
Since many of the projects were expected to improve water conditions over several years, the company devised rules for documenting multi-year “credits”, and continues to report their progress in an annual Water Replenishment Report (along with an annual Sustainability Report ). complete with hundreds of pages of fact sheets and technical footnotes. Coca-Cola told The Verge it has invested in improving wastewater treatment, water use efficiency and addressing "local needs and challenges."
However, the almost 2,000 million liters of water that the company compensated in 2015 cover little more than its “operational water”, that “very small percentage” of its Water Footprint, in the company's own words a few years earlier in the Dutch report. Specifically, when it refers to returning "every drop," it essentially refers only to the water that actually fits in each bottle or can of your beverages: the 0.5 liters in each half-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, which actually carries 35 liters of water. to produce, according to the water footprint assessment completed at that factory in Holland. Coca-Cola did not respond to The Verge's questions about whether it considers itself water neutral today or about the distinction between operational and full water use.
Additionally, many of Coca-Cola's offsets projects face questions about whether they deliver the benefits Coke claims. Perhaps the most serious allegation about the company's conservation spending is over whether it properly vets projects to ensure they are backed by science. The company did not answer detailed questions about these criticisms, which have been raised by scientists in Mexico.
"When it refers to returning" every drop ", it refers only to the water that really fits in each bottle"
In Mexico, Coca-Cola and one of its bottlers financed forestry work that included digging trenches similar to those used in agriculture. These infiltration ditches were intended to guarantee sufficient water to the suckers. Coca-Cola has publicly taken credit for helping finance more than approximately 5 million trenches in national parks and other forests throughout Mexico. However, these projects have been criticized for causing damage to some of the most iconic national parks in the country.
The Mexican government's forestry commission, Conafor, suspended the use of these trenches more than three years ago in some parts of the country. Scientific studies have concluded that the practice did not improve growing conditions, but increased erosion and forest degradation. The lead author of the studies, Dr. Helena Cotler of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told The Verge that she brought the problems to an executive who was in charge of community services for Coca-Cola de México (a a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based parent company) in 2014. The following year, a Mexican conservationist appeared in a YouTube video calling out Coca-Cola and other corporations that were funding the trench work. In response, Cotler said the executive told him the company suspended funding for the trenches in 2015. (Coca-Cola did not respond to questions about whether it had suspended funding for the trenches.)
However, in Coke's most recent replenishment report, released in April 2017, the company continued to count these discredited projects each year toward their worldwide replenishment count through 2023. It is not an insignificant amount. Of the total 221.7 billion liters of water that Coca-Cola estimates it restored to nature worldwide in 2016, the 13 billion liters the company attributes to Mexico's trench projects is equal to nearly 6 percent of its replacement claims worldwide and approximately 7.5 percent of its watershed worldwide protection investments.
"According to the company, the 191.9 billion liters returned" to nature "in 2015 allowed the company to reach" equilibrium "five years ahead of schedule.
Those accounting issues didn't stop the company from announcing in 2016 that it had reached its goal of water neutrality. "For every drop we use, we give back one," announced the Coke press release. According to the company, the 191.9 billion liters returned “to nature” in 2015 allowed the company to reach “balance” - water neutrality - five years ahead of schedule.
Since then, the company has accounted for every liter it says has been saved, and reported water value offsets of a total of 221 billion liters in 2016, or “133 percent” of its global sales volume. But when looking at your broader Water Footprint, this figure represents only slightly more than your “working water,” not the water that enters the supply chain. According to the company's full water footprint study, nearly 99 percent of water use goes unaccounted for, possibly more, considering that not all of the company's offset projects actually “return” water to nature, according to the company's own admission.
"Almost 99 percent of its water use goes unaccounted for"
"In most cases, access to water and improved sanitation projects result in a real increase in local water use and it may seem counterintuitive to pursue these types of projects as a balance for industrial consumptive use," according to a 2013 document written by Coca-Cola executives. and affiliate consultants explaining how your water compensation program works. The newspaper goes on to say that the company nonetheless believes that such additional water use is not necessarily bad, as long as it is used equitably and sustainably. Despite the lack of actual “replenishment”, last year the company said these water and sanitation projects offset a total of 12.2 billion liters per year.
Even Koch, who led the water compensation program for Coca-Cola before leaving the company last year, acknowledged that some projects - particularly potable water projects - run social, economic and environmental risks, but often increase the extraction of water. water in some places by making it easier for people to access water.
"It doesn't necessarily mean in this context in all cases that you are actually replenishing the water," Koch said. However, he added, "I would say that the vast majority of the reported water volume has actually been replenished."
To be continue…
Original article (in English)