Coca-Cola: Helping the Environment, But Not Your Health 9

By Ben

So there is a list of reasons why Coke is bad for your health (even though Coke wouldn’t have you believe any of them) – but at least they’re committed to helping the environment.

Coca-Cola is serious about making a difference, and they’re not just talking the talk – they’re walking the walk. Their new initiative moves beyond a traditional bottle recycling campaign to take aim at vending machines.

Marc Gunther wrote an article for this week’s issue of Fortune on Coke’s initiative to make vending machines more environmentally-friendly:

Vending machines and commercial coolers that keep drinks cold run around-the-clock, rely on inefficient compressors and, worst of all, use HFCs, a potent greenhouse gas. So when Greenpeace challenged the Coca-Cola Co. to get rid of conventional vending machines and coolers, the world’s largest beverage company promised to develop replacements that are 40 to 50% more efficient and HFC-free.

Since then, Coke has invested $40 million in research and testing, published a 900-page technical study and organized a coalition of companies that sell cold drinks and ice cream, including Unilever, McDonald’s and (gasp!) PepsiCo., to attack the problem. Last year, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Coke declared victory: E. Neville Isdell, the company’s chairman and CEO, and Gerd Leipold, who leads Greenpeace, unveiled a new, HFC-free, super-efficient vending machine. About 8,000 of the climate-friendly machines have been deployed, most to high-profile venues like Davos and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Marc later wrote in his blog that he’s become an admirer of Coke as he’s learned about the company’s sustainability work.

It’s great to see a company investing money to make real change, because although recycling bottles helps, that along is not nearly significant enough to spur wide-spread results.

This is explained in a video that BusinessWeek’s Heather Green wrote about yesterday called The Story of Stuff. The video goes into detail about our production and consumption patterns, and exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues. It’s 20 minutes long, but worth every minute.

The bottom line: Coke’s actions are admirable, but we need a lot more businesses and our government to take action in order to make significant changes.

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