[GRRN] Coke Can Make Environment Smile

From: Bill Sheehan (zerowaste@grrn.org)
Date: Tue Jul 11 2000 - 12:04:10 EDT

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    Atlanta Constitution
    July 11, 2000


    Edwin R. Stafford and Cathy L. Hartman - Special

    Coca-Cola is to be commended for its recent
    announcement that the company will phase out all cold
    drink equipment using global warming
    hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as refrigerants or insulation
    by the 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games.

    Chairman Douglas Daft declared that the company
    would expand its research to test environmentally safer
    refrigeration alternatives and require suppliers to use
    only HFC-free appliances and equipment that are at
    least 40 percent more energy efficient than today's
    standards. Although the announcement was made with
    little fanfare, its impact will be profound, catalyzing a
    greener future for refrigeration.

    Daft's decision comes in response to environmental
    watchdog Greenpeace's charges that, as a 2000 Sydney
    Olympics sponsor, the soft drink maker was breaking
    the "Green Games" environmental guidelines
    prohibiting HFCs at Olympic sites.

    Over the past decade, Greenpeace has crusaded to
    eradicate HFCs and other ozone depleting and global
    warming chemicals from the refrigeration industry.
    Greenpeace helped draft the Sydney Olympic's HFC-
    free environmental guidelines, which formed an
    integral part of that city's bid to serve as host.

    To date, however, the Sydney Olympic Coordination
    Authority has not enforced its mandate, and Greenpeace
    has turned to pressuring key Olympic sponsors directly
    to adopt HFC-free chillers for serving their foods and
    beverages. Greenpeace published an expose describing
    Coca-Cola as a "dirty Olympic sponsor" last April.

    Greenpeace credits Coca-Cola's change of heart to its
    new chairman's management style. Daft has been
    reaching out to those who have been disenfranchised by
    the soft drink maker in recent years under his more
    contentious predecessor, M. Douglas Ivester. In the
    wake of a variety of corporate missteps, including a
    tainted Coke scare in Europe last year and racial and
    morale problems at home, Daft is attempting to restore
    goodwill with governments, investors, employees and
    the public.

    Building bridges to the environmental community to
    restore Coke's reputation appears to be a priority.

    Coca-Cola's HFC decision could be the most important
    legacy of Sydney's Green Olympic Games. What is so
    remarkable is how a large, established firm can become
    an environmental maverick and send shock waves
    through an industry.

    Greenpeace's cooperative activism has paid off for both
    the environment and its corporate allies. Since 1993, the
    campaign has created markets to help sell over 40
    million "greenfreeze" refrigerators. Greenfreeze is now
    the dominant technology in Europe, and it has made
    significant inroads in China, India and other developing
    nations. North America, however, has been holding out.

    Appliance manufacturers and the chemical industry
    have resisted greenfreeze because it is a threat to
    profits. Greenfreeze is composed of existing propane
    and isobutane gases, which are in the public domain
    and cost about one-twentieth the price of HFCs. The
    chemical industry has also sounded the alarm about
    greenfreeze's potential flammability. Safety isn't really
    the issue, however, since the amount of gas for a
    domestic refrigerator is about twice of what is
    contained in a cigarette lighter. Much greater fire
    hazards can be found in most kitchens in the form of
    gas stoves.

    Coca-Cola's requiring suppliers and distributors to
    adopt all new HFC-free chillers by 2004 will drive
    innovation and initiate a domino effect to topple North
    America's HFC regime.

    The public needs to keep Coca-Cola to its word,
    however. The company has reneged on its
    environmental pledges in the past, including a 1990
    promise to use 25 percent recycled plastic in its bottles.
    Only this past April did Coca-Cola commit to 10
    percent recycled plastic for this year. Daft has the
    opportunity to continue positioning his company as an
    environmental maverick so the world can enjoy a Coke
    and a greener and cleaner future.

    Edwin R. Stafford and Cathy L. Hartman are marketing
    professors at Utah State University.

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