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Independent viewpoint on Coca-Cola’s Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report

Independent viewpoint on Coca-Cola’s Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report

Coca-Cola is an iconic global brand and the level of expectation for responsible business across all parts of the global Coca-Cola System, including Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), continues to be high.

The future holds both significant opportunity and risk for all businesses.CCE’s sustainability reporting reflects the significant progress made in specific issue areas, and illustrates the multi-faceted nature of most of the challenges we face as a world.

Today, few issues are seen as just environmental, or just social, or just economic – they are recognised as evermore interconnected and companies will increasingly have to respond with far more joined-up thinking on their integrated impacts and systemic value creation.

In 2011, when CCE’s sustainability plan was launched, sustainability leadership was in a somewhat different place. Looking back, leadership then seemed to be about going beyond bolt-on communications and issue management to demonstrate that sustainability was fully integrated into the core business strategy, management systems and value chain.

Today, the bar has been raised. Leadership looks set to be increasingly about acknowledging the systemic challenges facing the world, collaborating to come up with transformative solutions that create new markets and new value, as well as recognising that some existing business models will become obsolete.

CCE’s work on Energy and Climate Change and Sustainable Packaging and Recycling demonstrate clearly how the company is living up to these new expectations for leadership. However, there is an appetite for more information on how CCE is progressing on its wider CRS commitments and the fact sheets are a rational response to increasing requests for easily accessible information on specific areas.

Reading the CCE report in its entirety, alongside The Coca Cola Company’s reporting, is also instructive for those who want to appreciate the alignment between CCE’s strategy and the brand owner’s 2020 Sustainability Commitments – expressed as Me, We, World.

Our assurance statement includes recommendations that CCE should review its current suite of targets and KPIs to ensure they are aligned with the core business strategy, that they remain challenging to the business and also address the expectations of customers and other key stakeholders. This in itself will be challenging given the complex – sometimes conflicting – views of interested parties.

We also see an opportunity for CCE to explore how future reporting can better address the direct and indirect socio-economic impacts of its operations. The breadth of these impacts will be extensive, ranging from economic development amongst upstream suppliers, ‘knock-on’ effects in the vicinity of manufacturing operations, economic activity in the post-consumer value chain, and the contributions made at a national level through taxation.

Amongst the many definitions of ‘leadership’ in corporate responsibility, a common theme is the ability to have a vision that sees beyond the status quo and ‘business as usual’, and a preparedness to reach out and collaborate with novel and fringe stakeholders to inspire innovation. CCE is certainly demonstrating these qualities, and whilst progress will often depend on trade-offs, CCE’s reporting exemplifies a willingness and ability to be transparent and accountable.

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Coca-Cola Enterprises commissioned DNV GL to undertake independent assurance of its Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report 2013/2014. CCE’s assurance statement can be found here.

First published on the CCE site.
Image courtesy: Coca-Cola

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