Plastics are undoubtedly one of the biggest polluters of the world right now. Globally each year, we produce about 419 million tons of plastic while roughly 11 million tons of plastic makes its way into our oceans. As ReThink Hong Kong, a unique business conference centred around sustainable economy, society and environment, returns for its second edition on October 5-6 at the HKCEC, expert speakers and panelists are sharing their valuable insights, solutions and strategies on reducing plastic waste and adopting sustainable packaging. 

Earth.Org spoke to Raoni Lotar, the Frontline Marketing Director (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mongolia & Macau) of the Coca-Cola Company, ahead of his panel at ReThink, about the sustainability challenges for a corporation of its scale, and efforts in sustainable development and and innovation in the beverage industry. 

What are Some of the Biggest Goals in Sustainability for The Coca-Cola Company? 

At The Coca-Cola Company, we recognise our responsibility to help create a better future for our communities and our planet. In 2018, we launched a sustainable packaging initiative called World Without Waste (WWW) to take holistic actions to tackle the issue of packaging waste. Through this ambitious initiative, we are addressing our entire packaging lifecycle – from how bottles and cans are designed and produced to how they’re recycled and repurposed – with a focus on three fundamental and interconnected areas: design, collect, and partner. 

Apart from our WWW goals, the company is also actively working toward new plans to drive progress against intersecting priorities like water and building resilient communities.

Plastic Waste is the Biggest Issue for Public Perception. How Do You Shape and Drive the Discourse of Said Sustainability Strategies? 

As a brand and business, we share the critical goal of eliminating packaging waste from the ocean and environment, and we want to be part of the solution. Thanks to our size and global reach, we can help change the way sustainable packaging is made. Whether it’s using more recycled content, reducing the amount of plastic in our bottles (lightweighting), developing plant-based resins, or experimenting with ways to eliminate packaging altogether, our goal is to achieve our global vision for sustainability.

Our customers and consumers are at the centre of everything we do. We understand that they are looking for more environmentally-friendly, sustainable packaging for on-the-go consumption, which is why we started our sustainability journey 10 years ago with Bonaqua, a much-loved water brand in Hong Kong. From the first lightweight bottle and the PlantBottle back in the early days to the Bonaqua Water Station in 2018 and the 100% rPET bottle in 2020, we have been driving the city’s sustainability conversations through ongoing innovation and adapting our portfolio to evolving consumer behaviour. We will continue to accelerate this journey through more innovative designs, offering viable, sustainable, and convenient solutions for our consumers. 

sustainable packaging, bonaquaBonaqua Water Station in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of The Coca-Cola Company.

Learning from The Coca-Cola Company’s best sustainability practices from Japan, we launched the first locally produced, 100% rPET label-less packaging for Bonaqua mineralised water, just a few months ago.  The label-less bottle features a design that delivers higher recycling efficiency simply by eliminating one packaging material – and hopefully inspire other industry players to do more for a better world and a better tomorrow. 

Over the years, we have also actively worked in partnership with our bottling partner, industry peers, regulators, customers, local communities, and others on many initiatives to reduce the impact of packaging waste on our environment. Additionally, more than HK$10 million has been invested into ongoing support for green education and beverage packaging collection projects since 2018.

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How Do You Feel about Coca-Cola’s Current Progress So Far – What Are Some Key Highlights and Successes?

Our commitment to deliver on our core sustainability priorities—including World Without Waste – didn’t waver in 2020 despite the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve continued to make progress over the past year. Globally, 90% of the company’s packaging is recyclable and 22% is made from recycled material. One of the most challenging elements of our WWW efforts, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been the collection of used packaging and ensuring it doesn’t end up in the ocean or other places where it shouldn’t be. I am proud that despite all the challenging conditions, even in the midst of many temporary disruptions, the company remains committed to our WWW goals, and we have refilled, collected, or recycled the equivalent of one bottle or can for 60% of those we sold in 2020. Of course, we know we have more to do locally, and we will continue to push ourselves to meet our goals. 

How Do Events like ReThink Help Reach your company’s Sustainability Goals?

To create a sustainable business and better shared future is a large and complex topic that spans in many industries. We believe partnerships and the collective actions of all stakeholders are critical. Fulfilling our World Without Waste objectives requires progressive thinking and solutions from sharp minds from different sectors. ReThink serves as a shared platform to convene power and connect different companies, NGOs, and other stakeholders that see both the big picture and the small, iterative steps needed to get there.

The Coca-Cola Company is working to Refresh the World and Make a Difference. This guides us in everything we do as a business. I believe a World Without Waste is possible, but no one can solve this issue alone – however, if we all do our part, together we can make a big change.