“Reducing the environmental impact of our packaging continues to be one of the most important issues facing our business, and it’s where our focus will be going forward.”
Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) is working on a number of initiatives to improve the sustainability of its packaging. This includes removing unnecessary plastic and developing innovation solutions to bring its products to consumers. In fact, the company is pushing ahead with its sustainability plans.
Here, Bio Market Insights’ Liz Gyekye, catches up with Joe Franses, VP Sustainability of Coca-Cola European Partners, to find out more.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind your brand?
JF: Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) is the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler. We make, sell and distribute some of the world’s leading carbonated soft drinks brands – such as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite – as well as a whole host of other juice, water, energy and plant-based drinks to millions of consumers across 13 countries in Western Europe.
As a major consumer goods company, we’re committed to using our business and brands to be a force for good and build a better future for people and for the planet. It’s why in 2017 we created This is Forward, our sustainability action plan with The Coca-Cola Company, which sets out action areas on drinks, packaging, society, water, climate and supply chain – with ambitious targets to be met by 2025.
Our focus is on making progress against these sustainability commitments, while ensuring we deliver excellent service to our consumers.
LG: What did you do before your current role?
JF: I started my working career in the charitable sector and spent four years working in public affairs and communications consultancy, focused on supporting businesses to develop and communicate their corporate responsibility strategies and community partnerships. Prior to joining CCEP, I spent three years with Cable & Wireless, overseeing corporate responsibility, sustainability reporting and disclosure, as well as community and NGO partnerships.
At CCEP, I am responsible for the sustainability strategy focusing on sustainable packaging, energy and climate, water stewardship and human rights. My team looks after stakeholder engagement, sustainability reporting and communications, including external engagement with NGOs, policy makers, customers and suppliers.
LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing the company?
JF: As a large, multinational, fast moving consumer goods company, we know that we have an impact on our environment and the societies in which we operate. Single-use plastic, climate change, water scarcity, waste and pollution affect everyone and have far-reaching impacts.
Growing our business in a way that manages our social and environmental impact responsibly is always going to be a challenge. Our sustainability action plan This is Forward helps us to focus on making progress in the areas where we know we have significant impact, and which our employees and stakeholders care most about.
Managing the sustainability of our packaging is one of our biggest priorities right now. We are making progress on this, but we know there’s still more to do and we’re embracing that challenge.
LG: What’s CCEP’s sustainability plans for your packaging going forward?
JF: Reducing the environmental impact of our packaging continues to be one of the most important issues facing our business, and it’s where our focus will be going forward. We want to ensure that all the packaging we use is 100% recyclable, and most importantly, we aim to collect a bottle or can for everyone that we sell – that’s probably the most challenging goal we have set ourselves, but it is vital in achieving our ultimate aim to prevent our packaging from ending up as litter.
The recent announcement to switch three of our brands – Honest, Chaudfontaine and Smartwater – to bottles made from 100% recycled plastic was a significant step in the right direction, but we know we need to do more, and faster.
This means taking a more holistic approach, including everything from collection and recycling to design and innovation. We have a cross-system working model with The Coca-Cola Company to make all of our packaging as sustainable as possible.
Firstly, we are investing in new manufacturing lines at our sites across Europe to provide our customers and consumers with a greater choice of sustainable packaging. We remain focused on increasing the amount of recycled plastic in our products, by continuing our work with our partners Ioniqa Technologies and Loop Industries to transform hard-to-recycle plastic waste into high-quality, food-grade plastic that we can use in our bottles.
We’re also increasing capacity for refillable glass bottles and trialling new routes to market, such as our new partnership with Loop and Carrefour in France, which allows us to offer consumers some of our best loved drinks in refillable and returnable glass bottles.
Finally, we know that currently available systems have failed to keep pace with the amount of waste produced, so, to encourage refillable packaging, we’ve been looking closely at the different collection and recycling schemes in place across Western Europe – including household collection schemes and deposit return schemes (DRS). We’ve concluded that well-designed, industry-owned deposit return schemes help to encourage high collection rates for our packaging and are the most effective way to meet our targets. These systems are already in place in Norway and Sweden, where we’re seeing recovery and recycling rates of more than 90%, showing it’s possible for beverage packaging to exist in a true circular economy with no negative impact on the environment.
LG: How have consumers received your 100% rPET?
JF: The new 100% recycled PET (rPET) bottles for Chaudfontaine, Honest and Smartwater will launch at the start of 2020. So, from then onwards, wherever consumers buy these brands in Western Europe, they’ll find them in bottles made from recycled plastic.
LG: What’s coming up next for your company?
JF: We are working on a number of initiatives that will improve the sustainability of our packaging – from removing unnecessary plastic to developing innovative solutions to bring our products to consumers.
We will also be focusing on our innovation investment programme, CCEP Ventures. Through this, we’re looking to partner with the best digital minds and ideas outside of our business to help us develop solutions to key areas such as customer experience and support, logistics and distribution, future packaging design and technology, prediction and pricing analytics. We hope CCEP Ventures will help us to accelerate our innovation in these crucial areas and gives us a competitive advantage over our peers.
LG: What advice would you give to someone else looking to launch their own company/product in this space?
JF: The world has a major problem with packaging waste – too much is discarded after being used just once and ends up polluting the planet. Anyone looking to launch a new fast-moving consumer brand should consider the impact of any packaging waste on the environment.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainable/bio-based product?
JF: A breakthrough product for us was the introduction of the PlantBottle in 2009, which was the first-ever fully recyclable plastic bottle made partially from plants, rather than fossil fuels. This has to be my favourite sustainable product as it completely changed the way the world thought about plastic bottles. The PlantBottle is made through a process that turns sugarcane into a key component of PET plastic, which is fully recyclable but also convenient and lightweight, just like traditional PET plastic bottles. Currently, PlantBottle materials account for 30% of the plastic used in all the Coca-Cola system’s GLACÉAU Smartwater bottles.