Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Green Memo: Interview - Coca-Cola CEO John Brock Says Sustainability is No Longer 'Niche'

In an interview published in Knowledge@Warton, an online publication of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock talks about his push to "green" the giant beverage bottler, marketer and distributor.

Environmental sustainability is "absolutely key" to the strategy of Coca-Cola Enterprises. "It's center of play. It's not niche anymore," Brock tells the interviewers.

Coca-Cola Enterprises is the world's largest marketer, producer and distributor of Coca-Cola products. It has operations in 46 U.S. states and Canada, and is the exclusive Coca-Cola bottler for all of Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Monaco and the Netherlands. It's sales represent 18 percent of The Coca-Cola Company's worldwide volume. Coca-Cola Enterprises isn't to be confused with Coca-Cola Company, which is a separate corporate entity.

In June of this year, Natural~Specialty Foods Memo reported on and wrote about one of Coca-Cola Enterprises' new"green" efforts, this one in the transportation sector. In this piece [Green Transportation Memo: Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. to Go Green; Plans to Add 142 Hybrid Electric Delivery Trucks to its North American Fleet] we wrote about Coke Enterprises' plans to buy 142 hybrid- electric delivery trucks, the start of what the company said would be an eventual conversion of its entire diesel fuel-powered North American delivery truck fleet to 100% hybrid-electric.

In the Wharton interview, CEO Brock says Coca-Cola Enterprises has now purchased all 142 of those hybrid-electric delivery trucks -- and plans on buying more.

The hybrid-electric trucks, custom built for the company, use 35% less fuel and produce about 35% less emissions than conventional diesel fuel-only powered delivery trucks do. They also cost the company about 45% more than the conventional trucks, according to Brock.

Brock appears to be big on the hybrid-electric delivery trucks though, as you can read in the Wharton interview, despite the significantly higher upfront cost.

Part of his glee has to do with the fact -- despite the per-gallon cost of diesel fuel having decreased considerably over the last couple months (it will go back up) -- that with the high price of diesel fuel being pretty much a constant, he knows the hybrid-electric trucks will pay for themselves over time. [The reduced carbon emissions also will come in handy in the event the U.S. Congress passes carbon cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, which is something a majority of Democrats, President-elect Barack Obama, and some Republicans support.]

In the Wharton interview, CEO Brock also addresses a number of other environmental issues, including recycling and what the beverage giant is doing in that regard, since it is one of the biggest users of plastic packaging in the world.

In the interview piece, the chief executive of Coca-Cola Enterprises also discusses corn -- and its soaring cost -- which is used to make Fructose corn syrup, the current sweetener of choice in the bottler's carbonated beverage brands, including its flagship Coke. He also touches on the "green" issues of packaging reusability, climate change, energy conservation and other related sustainability issues.

You can read the Wharton interview with Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock here.

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