As the urgency of addressing climate change ramps up, so does the importance of everyone’s contribution to drastically reducing greenhouse gases and environmental degradation.
Our willingness to choose more sustainable alternatives is not enough. We need more brands to produce those sustainable alternatives and invest in Earth-friendly solutions that roll-back the damage done so far.
While more radical changes are needed to fully address the climate crisis, here are some steps beverage companies have taken that indicate promising progress towards building sustainability into the bottom line.
A certified B-Corporation, Numi Teas has been purpose-driven from the very start. Its teas are both organic and non-GMO. For its outer packaging, Numi uses 85% post-consumer waste and soy-based inks. For tea bags, Numi forgos plastic shrink wrap in favor of natural, biodegradable filter-paper. Currently, they’re working on creating home-compostable, plant-based, non-GMO packaging material.
Through purchasing carbon offsets supporting renewable energy projects in India and China, Numi has offset over 6 million pounds of CO2 equivalent. As a demonstration of transparency, the company also publicizes its carbon footprint and amount of resources used.
On Earth Day 2019, Nespresso began a multi-year initiative to plant shade trees in Costa Rica. Shade trees help provide the steady temperature that is critically important to the quality of coffee. This practice allows farmers to generate extra income from the wood, fruit and herbs that come from the trees. Because the trees enrich the soil with organic matter, absorb carbon dioxide and help restore biodiversity, the investment also helps the land adapt to the strain of climate change.
Nespresso capsules are known for being made out of aluminum and recyclable. After use, the capsules are transformed into raw materials used in garden compost, new capsules and a variety of products, including Victorinox Swiss Army knives, kitchen equipment and more. See how the company’s hallmark recycling program works here.
Nespresso is currently partnered with a number of organizations such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International through its AAA Sustainable Quality Program, which has been around since 2003.
Another one of the company’s notable initiatives is the Farmer Retirement Program. Nespresso has teamed up with the Colombian Ministry of Labour, the Aguadas Coffee Growers’ Cooperative and Fairtrade International to start a pension program in Caldas in 2014. The company has invested more than $2.2 million into the program, and the Columbian Government matches 20% of what farmers invest. Over 1,100 farmers have signed up.
Valued at close to $80 billion, Coca-Cola has a lot of power to make massively impactful waves in the beverage industry. Though the company’s bottles feature heavily in the disturbing images of beach litter and ocean pollution, it’s made some noteworthy changes.
In 2018 Coca-Cola announced that it intends to use 100% recyclable packaging and 50% recycled materials in bottles by 2030. The company also seeks to recycle one bottle for every bottle produced by the same year.
By 2020, Coca-Cola has set goals to improve water efficiency by 25%, reduce CO2 emissions by 25%, recover 75% of the equivalent amount of bottles and cans sold by the company in developed markets, and sustainably source 100% of key agricultural ingredients.
For over a decade Coca-Cola has aimed to replenish 100% of the water used in its finished beverages back to communities and nature through its Protect, Reduce, Recycle, Replenish program. In 2018 the company returned 155% of water used. Between 2010 and 2018, Coca-Cola replenished over 1 trillion liters of water and invested $124 million in water, sanitation and hygiene projects. Some of its global partners on this initiative are the World Wildlife Fund, 2030 Water Resources Group, The Nature Conservancy, and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor.
In response to the plastics pollution crisis, Mark De Luca and Onur Kece created Found Beverage Company in Bondi Beach, Australia. Since its creation in 2007, the sparkling mineral water company has forgone labels and made all of its bottles from 100% recycled glass. In addition to sustainability, Found emphasizes transparency by working with the Carbon Trade Exchange to offset their carbon footprint.
Recently, Found launched the 100K Initiative to commemorate the more than 100,000 marine mammals negatively impacted by plastics pollution every year. For the campaign, artist Amit Greenberg designed 100,000 individually numbered, limited edition glass bottles. 100% of the profits from these bottles will be donated to the nonprofit, Oceana, a leader in the fight against ocean pollution.
Viewing the Cup as Half Full
Compared to the scale of the climate crisis, these efforts seem small and perhaps more symbolic than proportionally substantive. For example, Nespresso relies on its customers to recycle all their coffee capsules for its recycling program to counteract the negative effects of single serve coffee, which it started.
Though Nespresso says it’s able to recycle 100% of its capsules, not everyone sends their used capsules back to be recycled. This fact means countless aluminum coffee capsules are likely piling up in landfills.
Yet, when industry leaders like Coca-Cola and Nespresso demonstrate a commitment to sustainability by making it central to its business approach and a part of its bottom line, an important standard of practice is being set for the non-alcoholic beverage industry — which was valued globally at 906.1 billion in 2018.
So even though these initiatives aren’t enough to stop climate change or undo the damage the industry has historically caused, they are a step in the right direction. The market for refreshing, delicious and accessible beverages will always exist, and the movement to create sustainable ways of fulfilling that market is laudable and something to get behind.
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