August 24, 2010


Coca-Cola Japan Aiming for a Sustainable Society and Business Growth under New Global Corporate Principle: "Live Positively -- Make a Positive Difference in the World"

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.95 (July 2010)
Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work (No. 93)

The Coca-Cola Company, known globally for its Coca-Cola beverage brand, currently offers its products in over 200 countries around the world. Its origin dates back over 120 years ago to 1886 when Dr. John S. Pemberton, an American pharmacist in the U.S. state of Georgia, invented a new syrup. Operations in Japan started in 1957 upon the establishment of a company, Nihon Inryo Kogyo K.K., which was renamed Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. in 1958. It now sells more than 60 types of beverage products ranging from carbonated drinks to coffee and tea drinks nationwide.

As a global company, the Coca-Cola Company recently introduced its new guiding principle of "Live Positively -- Make a Positive Difference in the World," with the aim of pursuing sustainable business growth while coping with complex and intertwined issues facing society, such as global environmental, social, and economic problems. The principle provides a framework of corporate social responsibility aimed at having the Coca-Cola system, which comprises the Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners worldwide, contribute to the creation of a sustainable society. The framework consists of four aspects: marketplace, environment, community, and workplace. For the environment, there are three priority areas: energy management and climate protection, sustainable packaging, and global water stewardship.

In this issue of the JFS newsletter, we feature environmental initiatives that Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. has been focusing its efforts on in recent years with its partner companies, especially its efforts to develop and introduce more "sustainable" packaging and energy-efficient vending machines, as well as Coca-Cola's worldwide initiatives on water issues.

Development of Lightweight Containers

"To a beverage manufacturer, it would not be an exaggeration to say that dealing with beverage containers means also dealing with environmental issues. Starting from our activities in the 1970s to help prevent littering and promote the recycling of used containers, we have been pursuing the creation of more Earth- and people-friendly containers from the development phase. Since around 2004, the Coca-Cola system in Japan, which refers to Coca-Cola Japan and its related companies, has been making efforts to develop innovative containers under the concept of 'sustainable packaging' by balancing the three features of ease of use, eco-friendliness, and fun," says Kentaro Onishi, manager of the Environmental Performance Management Group of Public Affairs & Communications at Coca-Cola (Japan), who went on to explain various approaches related to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles.

To create more eco-friendly packaging, Coca-Cola Japan took the approach of developing lightweight containers. In order to overcome shortcomings in weight reduction, the company has been making efforts to create a PET bottle that is light but strong and easy to handle. Currently, the fruit of these efforts is the "ecoru Bottle Shiboru" PET bottle used for "I LOHAS," a new water brand launched in 2009. Its market debut was revolutionary: the new 520-milliliter bottle is about 40 percent lighter than the company's previous water product bottle, and is designed for easy crushing or squeezing after the drink is consumed to reduce disposal volume. Then, Coca-Cola Japan started to use the "PlantBottle," a plant-based PET bottle, for "I LOHAS" in April 2010. Unlike the conventional PET bottle made from 100 percent petroleum-based plastic, the PlantBottle is partially (5 to 30 percent) made from molasses, a by-product of sugar production from sugarcane. The company first introduced the PlantBottle for its two brands of blended tea in March 2010.

Coca-Cola Japan to Introduce Sugarcane-based PET Bottles for Its Beverages

"I LOHAS" was named by combining two different elements: "i-ro-ha", part of an old Japanese alphabet, and LOHAS (standing for lifestyles of health and sustainability). The product has been a big hit in Japan, with its refreshing green-colored package, and it has received many awards, including the Minister of the Environment Award to Promote Containers and Packaging 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), the Global Environmental Awards, and the Good Design Award.

Onishi says, "Consumers get a sense of the positive effect they are having on the environment when they squash the bottle and minimize the size of waste after finishing their drink. We have also introduced the bottle in Taiwan and China, and plan to promote it in other countries as well." He added, "We are continuing to research the possibility of developing plant-derived bottles that are 100 percent recyclable, and are currently experimenting with inedible parts of plants such as wheat plant stems, scrap wood, and corn leaves and stalks."

Advanced Vending Machines -- Improved Performance in Environmental Conservation and Disaster Response

The company's objective is to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 360,000 tons (about 18.5 percent) from its manufacturing, distribution, sales, and office sectors in 2010, compared to the 2004 level, throughout the entire Coca-Cola system in Japan. As the emissions from distribution stand out from among the four sectors, most of which are emissions related to its 980,000 vending machines across Japan, the company has instituted various energy conservation measures in their design.

The next generation vending machine, called the "ecoru/E40," which was released in 2008, features the combined usage of an HFC-free heat pump, vacuum insulation panels, and LED lighting, thereby reducing energy consumption by 40 percent compared to the company's conventional models.

It also developed a model with solar panels mounted on top in March 2010, which was named the "ecoru/Solar." With the power storage system using solar panels, this new model can provide night time lighting with no outside energy consumption. Kansai Telecasting Corporation in Osaka was the first to install this model, and the Coca-Cola system further aims to install 1,500 of the new vending machines across the country by the end of 2010, thus promoting future energy-saving efforts through a series of replacements throughout the nation.

Possible Scenario to Use Solar Power for Night Time Illumination (theoretical figures) - Night time to be set at 12 hours/day, as specified by the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) - Machines are illuminated dimly when not in use, and fully when in use - One-third of total sales (number of sales) are assumed to occur during night time - Battery can be fully recharged in 3.3 hours (3.3 hours is the average hours per day of solar generation calculated using climate data)

Coca-Cola System in Japan Installing Vending Machines with Solar Panels

Vending machines are able to provide various contributions to society, one of which is a capability to assist people in time of disasters. The Coca-Cola system has been introducing vending machines ready for disaster relief to be used as a source of information and drinks, in cooperation with local municipalities nationwide. This new vending machine features the ability of providing free drinks during a disaster as well as displaying disaster information on an electronic bulletin board. Aiming to support the wellbeing of communities in ways that reflect local differences, the company has been installing various types of vending machines that also collect funds to support the activities of animal protection groups, non-profit organizations, and community-based professional sports teams.

One of Coca-Cola's latest unique initiatives in Japan is participating in an ecological survey of a bird called the Okinawa rail by analyzing birdsong data collected from digital voice recorders installed in vending machines in target areas. The Okinawa rail is a poor flyer species found only in the Yambaru District in the northern part of Okinawa Island, in the southernmost part of Japan. It is one of Japan's most endangered bird species and has been designated as protected. The survey, jointly conducted by Okinawa Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and a non-profit organization called Conservation & Animal Welfare Trust, is notable as part of a series of the company's biodiversity conservation programs.

Toward Sustainable Use of Water Resources

Along with packaging and energy management, the global Coca-Cola system emphasizes water resource conservation, as water is one of the world's most important resources, particularly for the beverage industry. As global society is now facing water-related problems like water shortages, sustainable water use is an urgent task for both business and society.

The Coca-Cola Company has set itself the goal of becoming a global leader in water resources management by the year 2015. Since 2004, it has implemented its water stewardship strategy in its global operations, which strategically promotes the three actions of reducing water used to produce its beverages, recycling water used in beverage manufacturing processes, and replenishing water in local communities and nature.

The company is promoting its Source Water Protection program as one of its water resource management programs, in which water sources for all Coca-Cola plants worldwide will be identified, and plans for assessing source vulnerability and preserving sources will be formulated. In Japan, in line with the project, pilot surveys of water resources have been started at its two production sites, one at the Daisen Plant of Coca-Cola West Daisen Products Co. in Tottori Prefecture and the other at the Tokai Plant of Coca-Cola Central Japan Products Co. in Aichi Prefecture. Results of these surveys will form the basis for extending project implementation to all 29 domestic plants by 2012.

"In the end, we aim to be 'water neutral' by replenishing as much water as we use for our beverage production through appropriate wastewater management at our plants, along with watershed protection," says Yohko Okabe, a manager of the sustainability development office at Coca-Cola Japan, while describing the company's future vision

As a global corporate citizen dealing with issues like climate change and water issues at the global level, any company nowadays is expected to take actions toward a more sustainable society. Under this challenging situation, it is increasingly important to reinforce corporate efforts by having a globally shared goal like Coca-Cola's "Live Positively -- Make a Positive Difference in the World."

Written by Taeko Ohno