Coca-Cola earns highest marks for sustainable packaging

5 Oct 2021

A new report from the non-profit As You Sow found that among the 50 consumer-facing companies whose packaging sustainability was analyzed, only Coca-Cola earned a grade of B, which was the highest mark extended to any of the companies. Below Coca-Cola, 17 companies scored a grade of C, 18 received a D and 14 were awarded an F.

“The top grade of B earned by only one company shows that all companies can, and should, be doing much more to stave off the immense predictions of ocean plastic deposition and corporate financial repercussions,” the non-profit said in its report.

Coca-Cola earns highest marks for sustainable packaging

As You Sow is instrumental in making sure that companies continue to push the envelope and commit to reducing the amount of waste they generate. In recent months, the non-profit filed shareholder proposals with Keurig Dr Pepper, PepsiCo and Mondelez to require them to report how much of their plastic packaging escapes into the environment. Following these filings, all three companies committed to cutting their virgin plastic use, and the requests from As You Sow were subsequently rescinded.

Plastic is a material that has come under seemingly unrelenting scrutiny in recent years due to its tendency to become waste rather than contribute to the widespread effort to curtail the amount of refuse landing in a landfill. Although it has been years that consumers have pushed companies to exchange plastic packaging in favor of recyclable or compostable options, the pressure to focus on sustainable alternatives has only increased as a result of the pandemic.

In Trivium Packaging’s 2021 Global Buying Green Report, data showed over half (54%) of respondents consider sustainable packaging when selecting a product, and almost two-thirds believe that recyclable packaging is important for the products they purchase.

Despite concerns over plastic usage, the material remains prominent in packaging. Coca-Cola estimates it produces 120 billion bottles of single-use plastic each year. Similarly, PepsiCo uses 2.3 million metric tons of plastic, according to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. However, these two companies handle their plastic consumption differently, according to As You Sow’s report.

Coke earned a score of B for its transparency around its packaging use, strong commitment to recycling and its support of producer responsibility initiatives. Meanwhile, PepsiCo eked out a D due to the insufficient nature of its current plastic use reduction pledges.

While this report clearly shows that there is a long way to go before these companies are able to deliver on their promises and produce sustainable packaging at scale, the non-profit’s report did highlight glimmers of hope. Plastic reduction goals have increased ninefold since the first time that the non-profit issued this report in 2019. Also, there has been a nearly fourfold increase in support for extended producer responsibility.

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