Coca-Cola is the first Fortune 500 company to replenish all the water it uses globally.
Photograph by Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images
By John Kell
August 29, 2016

Coca-Cola (ko) just hit a major environmental milestone five years early.

The beverage giant, along with its bottling partners, has successfully supported enough community water projects to match the amount of water it uses to make its portfolio of beverages around the world—achieving its 2020 water replenishment goal this year.

On Monday, Coke said it returned an estimated 191.9 billion liters of water to the Earth through community water projects, which comes out to 115% of the water used in the company’s beverages last year.

The achievement was made possible through the company’s work with 248 community projects across 71 different countries. Coke and its bottling partners improved water use efficiency by 2.5% from 2014 to 2015, adding to a cumulative 27% improvement since 2004.

Meanwhile, rival Pepsi (pep) said on Monday that it reduced its operational water use per unit of production by 26% vs. the baseline in 2006. That exceeded Pepsi’s goal of a 20% reduction by the end of 2015. Overall, the company’s water conservation efforts have saved it more than $80 million between 2011 and 2015.

Pepsi said its water conservation strategy is part of a broader sustainability push, which has resulted in $600 million in cost savings over the past five years as the company gets more efficient on water, energy, and packaging usage.

“PepsiCo’s approach to water stewardship is driven by the understanding that water is inherently local, so the company focuses on specific solutions for watersheds where it operates, to make more and better water available to local communities,” said a representative in an e-mailed statement. An example: several years ago, PepsiCo became the first beverage business in India to return more water locally than it used. It did so by efficiency in manufacturing, agricultural initiatives, and replenishing water in areas near the company’s production facilities.

Pepsi detailed a few other key points of progress, including:

 

  • Reducing absolute water usage in its operations by about 3.2 billion liters in 2015, while still reporting higher beverage and snack volumes.
  • Expanding a sustainable farming initiative, which was launched in 2013, with active programs representing over 28,000 growers in its supply chain across 15 nations.
  • Developing a direct seeding machine for rice farmers in India, enabling participating growers to save more than 10 billion liters of water since 2013.

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