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After a year of progress, accelerating sustainability progress should be our New Year’s resolution

Jim Fox, Head of Public Affairs

Jim Fox, Head of Public Affairs | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

4 min read Partner content

As 2021 draws to a close, many of us will be looking back on the year that has been; one in which we have faced challenges, but also seen a huge amount of progress in a number of areas.

Sustainability has been at the top of the agenda for some time now, but never more so than in 2021, particularly as the eyes of the world fell on Glasgow for COP26 last month. The urgency for businesses to deliver bold climate action remains at the forefront of the national agenda and there is an expectation on all of us to do more in the year ahead.

A year on from the announcement of our Net Zero 2040 ambition and 2030 emission reduction target we’ve remained resolute in prioritising our environmental goals and have made significant progress towards our ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2040. For example, we are expanding the solar farm which directly powers our Wakefield soft drinks factory – the largest in Europe – saving almost 1,800 tonnes of CO2 every year.

Last month we announced a further £11m investment over the next five years to replace our 200-strong fleet of material handling equipment, including forklifts, with units powered by lithium-ion batteries, producing no carbon emissions in their day-to-day operation.

Beyond emissions, we’ve also made significant progress in making our packaging more sustainable. We’ve introduced 100% recycled plastic (rPET) 500ml bottles across our core range, which will help to save more than 29,000 tonnes of ‘new’ non-recycled plastic across our operations in Great Britain every year.

However, we know that more must be done, and we have a responsibility to go further and faster with our sustainability targets as we look ahead to 2022.

In order to have the biggest possible impact, we need to work together as an industry (suppliers, customers and peers), to make sure everyone is engaged in this mission, right along the value chain. That’s why we have been supporting the Net Zero Pubs, Bars and Restaurants initiatives in association with Net Zero Now, the Sustainable Restaurant Association and Pernod Ricard UK.

The initiative is designed to help the hospitality industry to address its greenhouse gas emissions by providing guidance on how to reduce carbon emissions, the actions needed to get there, and setting a standard against which they can be certified.

Of course, we know how difficult it has been for our on-trade customers, and one of our main priorities has been supporting them through the challenges they have faced. We built on the £20m support package we provided to the hospitality sector last year offering practical guidance on reopening and free stock to help venues as they found their feet again.

We are continuing to support the sector this Christmas, working with venues to celebrate designated drivers as the unsung heroes of the holidays through our ‘Hero the Driver’ campaign. Pubs and bars can offer drivers a free second drink on us, rewarding responsible behaviour and encouraging more people to support their favourite pub or bar. You can find the nearest bar offering the deal here:

The Net Zero Pubs, Bars and Restaurants initiative is the next step in this support – we know one in three consumers rank sustainability among their top three purchasing criteria[1], and living greener lifestyles is growing in importance for many post-Covid[1]. By helping venues to become more sustainable, we are also helping them to attract more customers.

We’re also determined to do more to increase the amount of recycled material we use in our packaging. The introduction of Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) remains high on the agenda in Scotland, and increasingly across the rest of the UK. As members of Circularity Scotland we will introduce a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Scotland in August 2023, followed by other schemes across the rest of the UK during 2024.. We know that it will take a strong collaborative effort to ensure that the scheme can be implemented effectively.

We must all make a resolution in 2022 to work together towards collective sustainability goals if the UK is to make significant progress. We have an opportunity to lay the foundations for a greener future, and need to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction.

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