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This article has been written by Sneha Asthana, pursuing the Diploma in Business Laws for In-House Counsels from LawSikho.

Introduction

The idea behind corporate social responsibility is to ensure that entities making most revenues out of society’s resources pay back to the same society in different charitable ways. Every existing company operating in India with a turnover of over one thousand crores can move some resources to help and benefit the same society that provides its resources for its business operations. According to Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, any company with a net worth of five hundred crore rupees or more or a turnover of over one thousand crore rupees or more or a net profit of five crore rupees or more during the immediately preceding financial year must constitute a board to look into such CSR activities. Such companies shall contribute a minimum of 2% of their average net profits that were made in the immediately three preceding financial years into social welfare activities. There’s no doubt that companies which do not meet the above categories are also capable of helping society and initiating CSR activities, however, the Indian law does not mandate such companies to follow their corporate social responsibilities. This does not take away a chance from them for doing so though. Most decently sized companies have still participated in several societal welfare activities such as volunteering programmes, sponsorships, training, building homes, etc. The big-sized companies simply need to follow this under the law leaving them no other choice because Section 135 of the Companies Act works on a “compliance or explain basis”.

While the Companies Act simply mandates the companies to participate in such CSR activities, the section does not expand on the types of CSR activities that can be taken up. Most companies or country-specific laws derive such knowledge from the 10 principles drafted in the United Nations Global Compact. The Compact throws light upon how companies need to work sustainably which means that they have to meet certain thresholds in areas of human rights, labour, climate, environment, anti-corruption etc. The 10 principles that have been drafted in this Compact also broadly cover the above categories by giving out guidelines to the companies to adhere to and initiate practices that protect and respect human rights, allowing a non-interfering work life with no discrimination or preferential treatments and also allowing the freedom of association to the workers, ensuring complete preservation and protection of the environment and finally, giving their best efforts to avoid all kinds of corruption. Companies all across the globe use these principles to chart out their activities ensuring that their base lies in these principles. The guidelines in this Compact have broadly covered the most essentially problematic issues of the society which can only be solved by huge amounts of resources and hence, any company making and creating any initiative towards any one of those guidelines will inevitably help the society. 

Coca Cola and CSR 

Coca Cola has been involved with various sustainability programmes throughout its existence. They follow their raison d’être – To refresh the world and make a difference in all aspects including their corporate social responsibility. The company has initiated programmes according to the United Nations Sustainability Goals as stated above. They focus primarily on waste management and the preservation of water. The company focuses on Waste Management as they understand that most of their packaging is done through plastic components which can be difficult to collect and dispose of. Proper waste management is the need of the hour and so is recycling. The company is also focusing on making its packaging completely recyclable or reusable to better help the environment. Coca Cola India has been involved in its consistent and progressive CSR activities since 2010 and the only aim is to invest higher and more efficiently in such programmes. This article studies a few of their most important and renowned CSR programmes.

What initiatives have they taken?

1. World Without Waste

World Without Waste is a program that was launched in 2018 by the Coca Cola company all over the world. The initiative is based on solving the problems of collecting, recycling, repurposing, and reusing the waste that generates from their products. It was observed that their packaging waste and the bottles and containers of their products had become a big part of the waste generated all through the world. Even in India, it is not an uncommon sight to see lying Coca-Cola beverage bottles lying around in the trash bins. While the packaging of their products is not something they cannot compromise on, Coca Cola has been extremely successful in finding out ways to battle the problems their packaging causes to the environment and the economy. This initiative has given Coca Cola a different perspective altogether on their packaging. The company has decided to focus and change the following through this initiative, viz.:

  1. Design of their bottles: The company has targeted to make their bottles 100% recyclable and reusable. The sizes of its bottles have also been changed to Affordable Small Sparkling Package (ASSP) turning into the world’s lightest weighing and best-performing bottles. 
  2. Collection: The company intends on collecting all bottles used, including their reusable glass bottles to ensure that all their packages are again recycled and reused thereby not generating waste.
  3. Plastic circular economy: Coca Cola intends to create a sustainable economy and environment for all countries impacted by their business. Their focus lies on creating initiatives that work efficiently towards collection, segregation, and treatment of waste. Material Recovery Facilities, knowledge management, traceability, waste management workers – all of these lie in the checklist.

Under the main initiative of World Without Waste, Coca Cola has come up with a few initiatives in India to ensure their operations run smoothly here. Some of those are: 

  1. Project Prithvi – This project of Coca Cola was initiated in sync with the Indian Government’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) and also per the Extended Producer’s Responsibility Program. It partners with the United Nations Development Program and aims to cover everything from the collection of plastic to its treatment facilities. Most plastic is collected from societies or bulk generators etc. It is then taken to the material handling facilities where machines and human labour work on segregation of plastic, cleaning, shredding, bailing, and basic treatment of plastic making it ready for the end recyclers. These facilities are often equipped with massive highly efficient machines and human labour to work on these machines and other humanly affordable tasks to do. The amount of waste calculated per day makes it practically impossible for humans to work alone on it. After having given a round-one treatment to this waste, all the waste is delivered from these facilities to the end recyclers making sure no amount of waste goes into a landslide thereby stopping any kind of environmental pollution.
  2. Alag Karo – Alag Karo which translates to Segregate is an initiative implemented by Saahas, a society in partnership with Coca Cola India and TetraPak which solely focuses on the segregation of waste. The initiative was first implemented in Gurugram, with an aim to reach the entire country progressively. Segregation at the source of waste generation in apartments and societies, offices, etc., is the initiative’s primary focus. Along with the act of segregation, the initiative also aims at educating people about the segregation of waste by providing them with manuals and the three different coloured bins to ensure that the same education is practised. The initiative also collaborates with various commercial establishments to analyze and determine different strategies to do the same and give recommendations for the municipal corporation and government policies. Their collaboration with educational institutions has also been very compelling to ensure such knowledge is instilled in citizens from a tender age itself. The initiative has also been highly successful in educating and training the workers giving them fair compensation for all their efforts.

Findings

Coca Cola has been very successful in its initiatives under its main head of waste management over the last few years. According to their plan, they have already seen victory in introducing ASSP bottles in the market towards which people have been very accepting. The size of the bottle appears very comfortable and convenient for people to carry and consume the drink from. It also works great wonders on the environment because each of these bottles can be almost entirely recycled. In 2019, the company also marked a great step towards their initiative by producing the first bottle ever made by recovered and recycled marine plastics. The initiative was implemented broadly in cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, etc., and about 85000 tonnes of plastic was collected every year, hugely treating the different kinds of chemicals making it ready for the end recycler, and protecting the environment from any spills. Additionally, Coca Cola has also witnessed great heights of success in the other mentioned initiatives. 

  1. Project Prithvi has developed across 28 cities all over the country. With its main objectives revolving around design, collect and partner, the campaign has collected more than 1,10,000 MT of waste since its inception. They have spread across 36 cities now employing more than 4500 workers in 2018. About 100 Self Help Groups were created with men and women who were trained and educated in the waste management fields to make them capable of employment. More than 200 schools were also touched to educate students and create awareness about the particulars of waste management. 
  2. Alag Karo has now reached about 1.5 million people as segregation has become part of most cities. IT has been implemented in around 22000 households, 42 residential societies, 412 offices and 87 restaurants. Around 24000 students were also educated and sensitized about waste segregation and resource recovery through the campaign. 75000 kg waste was collected and segregated at the collection level thereby increasing source recovery levels drastically. Additionally, more than 500 workers were employed under the campaign which helped the employment rate, especially of Gurugram, greatly. 

Other initiatives such as Material Traceability Program and Women Waste Recycler Upliftment Program also function on similar patterns of waste collection and segregation. The initiatives have found remarkable success in demonstrating holistic waste management strategies. MTR has ensured the involvement of the informal sector in constructing material recovery facilities, educating and training the informal sector, and handling a capacity of 5-10 tons of dry waste every day in their different Facilities. The WWRUP has helped over 200 rural women in getting trained and becoming capable of attaining employment to sustain their livelihoods. 

2. Fruit Circular Economy

Fruit Circular Economy is an initiative started by Coca Cola in 2011 to help farmers get better yield out of their saplings, decide on which produce to cultivate, use high-density farming techniques etc. The project with the name of Unnati Mango started in Andhra Pradesh to help the farmers double the yield per hectare of cultivation. Problems like lack of knowledge, inability to produce more yield, lack of modern techniques were moved away rapidly from the farmers because of the Ultra High-Density Plantation campaign that Coca Cola introduced. It is under this campaign that farmers were educated and equipped with modern modes of cultivation and helped make better yield produce. The campaign focuses on simple changes like planting several mango trees in a small area so the plants bear fruit faster due to their survival instincts in contradiction to the traditional method where it was believed that mango trees should be planted at a distance so proper nutrients reach to each tree sufficiently. 

FCE was started in Andhra Pradesh but has now reached most of South India and parts of Northern and Eastern India. The project Unnati has now found scope not only in mangoes but in apples, oranges, litchi, and grapes. Methods of drip irrigation, land trials, demo farms, modern nurseries, organic pesticides, farmer trials, and training on good agricultural practice have all factored in resulting in great crop results and higher incomes for the farmers. 

Findings

  1. Unnati Mango – Until 2014, Unnati Mango had become vastly successful with the practice of UDHP spreading to over 2,073 acres, 60,000+ farmers trained, more than 3000 women trained and supported, 40 acres used for planned nurseries with a capacity of 2 million plants. More than 90,000 farmers have been impacted positively by the project.  
  2. Unnati Orange – This project was launched in 2018 and has been successful in planting on at least 350 acres of land, creating more than 20 acres of demo farms using UDHP techniques, and educating more than 20,000 farmers of the same.
  3. Unnati Apple – The project, also launched in 2018, in Uttarakhand, taught the orchard farmers to grow the fruit as creepers. In the beginning, the project was able to educate and train 3,300 farmers and create around 99 modern demo farms, 4 of which were intended to showcase a higher variety of apples being cultivated. Now the project has more than 1000 demo orchards and more than 150 established orchards. It has also educated and trained more than 3000 farmers with an aim to train more than 50,000 farmers in the second phase of the project.
  4. Unnati Grapes – A project launched in 2019 in Tamil Nadu has now trained around 8000 farmers and has built 600 demo farms so far.
  5. Unnati Litchi – Yet another project launched in 2019 which helped train more than 80,000 farmers and revitalise farms spanning across 3,500 acres. 

Coca Cola has spent considerable resources on FCE which have all produced better results than expected. The company aims at helping more than two lakh farmers by 2022 and introducing a new more transparent supply chain which would be extremely helpful to all kinds of farmers.

3. Water Stewardship (Pursuing Water Security)

Coca Cola realises the stake it has in the use of water for, all its operations from using it for beverages to the use of it for producing containers. This initiative was started by the company to ensure that it creates an efficient, protective, and resilient water management system for all its manufacturing operations. The motto of the initiative is to reduce, reuse, recycle and replenish through which the company can ensure a proper supply of water for itself and all the other communities. 

The company has a well-planned strategy to ensure their water usage is minimal and also efficient so no amount of water is used arbitrarily. It adheres to the following steps:

  1. Facility Water Vulnerability Assessments (FWVA) are carried out to assess the potential risks in quality and quantity at all bottling plants of the company.
  2. Facility Water Protection Plans (FWPP) are then drafted out each year after receiving the reports of FWVA. FCPPs are helpful to the company because it shows the quantities of water being used and the purpose, the efficiency of the same and the quantity of water that has been reused. 
  3. All usage of water for the coming year is planned according to the above reports and then compared to the last year’s usage to understand any loopholes or arbitrary uses of water. Post usage, all wastewater is then treated properly and released in water bodies that support aquatic life.

The company has also made inspiring goals of replenishing 100% of the water used by it. To achieve this goal the company partnered with a few NGOs and formed a group Anandana which has helped in achieving not only the replenishment goal but several other water conservations and providing clean drinking water goals that had been chalked out by the company. 

Findings

Coca Cola has been highly successful in reducing the percentage of water being used for its operations. Their water use ratio, which tells us the litres of water used to make one litre of beverage, has drastically decreased from 3.38 litres in 2008 to 1.74 litres in 2019. Additionally, Anandana has been successful in providing WASH facilities to several villages, increase watershed development, and supporting agricultural improvements. More than 600 villages and 80,000 members of the community benefited from their work. More than 5 villages of Aurangabad districts were helped with RO and ultrafiltration units, Jaldhara Water Health Centers were installed in more than 3 states of the country and built hygienic toilets across the country benefitting more than 10,000 people and tackling the problem of open defecation in India. In regards to water replenishment, around 13.3L litres of water has been replenished which means more than 119% of the water used in manufacturing operations has been replenished. This has been played out advantageously for a country like India which already faces a lot of drought problems, once such which was faced in Maharashtra. Anandana has partnered with Haritika to increase water availability through run-off water harvesting measures like rainwater harvesting etc. This has benefitted more than 5000 people in various remote districts of the state.

Simultaneously, the company also adheres to regular legal compliance from the Environment and Water Protection Acts to ensure no leaf is left unturned when it comes to saving water or reusing water. 

Conclusion

While Coca Cola has three main CSR initiatives involving Waste Management, Fruit Economy, and Water Conservation, the company also has other initiatives like Support My School (SMS) which helps several schools in building proper sanitation and hygienic facilities which also cater specially to girls, the multi-stakeholder partnerships on sustainable agriculture which help farmers face economic, social, environmental and infrastructural problems in farming has also attracted a decent success rate after an investment of more than Rs 1 crore. Through these initiatives, what one can observe is Coca Cola has ticked every box in initiatives that are close to home. The company is aware and understands the problems it can cause to society through its business operations and it shows through these initiatives that the company is only trying to correct its wrong and it has been significantly successful in doing so. Coca Cola is a brand so deeply imprinted on our minds as it is a part of our lives that when the society is also benefited by the company in other social, economic ways, it only gets more difficult to drift away from Coca Cola.

References


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