Net zero requires trusting unmet partners and unproven technology
Coca-Cola HBC AG
For many companies, the biggest net-zero challenge is the emissions generated by partners along the value chain. The trust firms have built with their partners will be key to tackling this issue. New partners with new ideas and approaches will also be needed – which will require a shift in mindset for many organisations.
COP26 saw world leaders seeking new ways of saving lives, livelihoods and habitats from the climate emergency we all face. We can debate the success or otherwise of the agreements reached, but what is clear is that governments need business to play a central role in driving down emissions. And if we are going to achieve our collective goal, we need to shift our mindset to ‘what’s possible’. This means embracing new technology and innovation, being open to new partnerships and trying new things.
In October 2021, we committed to reducing emissions across our entire value chain to net zero by 2040. It is no small undertaking and is the result of years of work. We were one of the first companies to commit to and deliver science-based targets, which have helped us to halve our direct emissions in the past decade, and our CO2 reduction plan to 2030 is already endorsed and approved on the 1.5˚C pathway.
But the most challenging aspect of our net-zero commitment is that 90% of our emissions are in our value chain, and therefore outside our control.
Therefore, achieving our goal is only possible with the trust we have in partnerships we have developed over many years. Some of our biggest supply chain partners have already set, or are in the process of setting, significant, science-based carbon reduction targets, which means we are in good company. But let me be clear: we can only work long-term with those who share the same vision.
We have many partnerships that target net zero. We partner with suppliers of renewable electricity and those producing energy-efficient beverage coolers, and we are pushing the light-weighting of all our PET, aluminium and glass packaging to the limit, using the least material currently possible whilst maintaining quality and safety.
At the same time, we are driving the use of recycled materials to create a circular economy for packaging and waste reduction, including using 100% recycled PET bottles. We have also invested in new technology in Poland that turns washed recycled PET flakes directly into food-grade preforms at our plant.
Partners in other areas help us to develop different technologies and solutions for packaging. Most of our European markets have now replaced plastic wrap on can multipacks with a KeelClip™ paperboard solution, and this year we will introduce our first paper-based carton for PET multipacks in Austria, marking a further step in plastic reduction. And we are working constantly with ingredient and packaging materials suppliers, energy efficiency and green fleet providers to find better solutions.
We have undertaken some world-first innovations. In Switzerland, we are working with Climeworks to take CO2 from the air at our plant in Hinwil, refining it to food-grade and using it to carbonate our sparkling water. It is one of those things you see for the first time and think; it’s so simple, why haven’t we been doing it for years?
Of course, these technologies come with cost considerations that mean they are not always scalable to our larger plants, but they are opening new possibilities and new emission-free ways of working. Additionally, we are supporting the regeneration of waterways, woodlands and wetlands across our territories to support natural carbon capture.
But we need new partners in areas in which we have little or no experience. That’s a challenge, but it’s also exciting.
Tens of thousands of our people, millions of customers, billions of consumers, and countless ideas yet to be realised – these are the numbers in which I put my trust on our road to net zero. The journey will be one of our greatest tests yet, but it’s essential to all our futures and one that I’m convinced will showcase the very essence of partnership and trust.