The following article first appeared in the Portsmouth Patch as written by Michael McCord of the Green Alliance.
Coca-Cola Company, and its regional franchise, receive high marks for its sustainability initiatives from Climate Counts.
Sustainability is a top to bottom, team effort at the Coca-Coca Co. of Northern New England. CCNNE’s operating philosophy welcomes all good ideas when it comes to recycling, energy efficiency, and better resource management.
“Little changes for us can mean big things,” said Ray Dube, the sustainability manager at CCNNE. The widespread sustainability measures at CCNNE’s state-of-the-art bottling plant in Londonderry, its 10 distribution centers (in New England and upstate New York), and its fleet of more than 500 vehicles have combined to make a significant difference in company operations.
CCNNE is a regional franchise and its sustainability initiatives are mostly its own. But the efforts correspond with a top score that the Coca-Cola Company received at the global corporate level from Climate Counts, the Durham-based nonprofit organization which brings together consumers and businesses to confront climate change and reduce carbon footprints.
In its latest report card, Climate Counts graded Coca-Cola with an 85 score and a “Soaring” ranking which is its top mark. In particular, Coca-Cola was recognized for measuring its companywide impact on global warming since 2002; for distinguishing itself by strongly advocating for comprehensive climate change policy; and establishing clear goals to reduce the company’s energy use and its impact on global warming while working “to foster climate awareness among consumers, employees, and other businesses.”
This sustainable focus has fostered a transformation in doing business at CCNNE for more than a decade. Dube runs a one-man sustainability shop at CCNNE but contributions come from everyone in the company which was founded in 1977.
“It’s never just one thing and done and not all the efficiencies are from the top down. We are constantly looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint through more efficient dispatching of our delivery trucks to decrease mileage use,” Dube explained. Or through a practical idea from a distribution center manager in Vermont who reduced heat costs at his facility by creating a loading schedule for opening up bay doors for more than one truck at time.
Through technological modernization of its production lines and a rethinking of how it uses water, the Londonderry Production Center is not only the fourth largest Coca-Cola bottler in the United States but is one of the most sustainable and energy efficient operations as well.
Given the massive scale of production – 25 million cases of products in 2013 – small changes such as smaller bottle caps, shrink wrap, and plastic pallets can save up front dollars and less resource usage.
Dube says that consumption from Lake Massabesic, the water source for the center, has dropped dramatically. A decade ago the average water use for one-liter of product was 2.0 liters but it has dropped to an average of 1.7 liters nationwide in 2013 and it stands at 1.64 per liter for CCNNE, one of best ranks in the country. Water waste has also dropped as it is recycled for washing or used to clean pallets. Additionally, hoses are constantly checked for leaks to reduce water waste.
“Waste costs money and when you can save money that goes to the bottom line,” Dube said. Recycling every product that can be recycled is another priority. CCNNE recycles light bulbs, oils, metal and shrink wrap, toner cartridges, cardboard, paper, aluminum, PET, glass, wood pallets, old vending equipment, waste oil and antifreeze, and they provide recycling bins for customers.
Last year CCNNE oversaw the recycling of 4.5 million pounds of aluminum cans. Dube said that aluminum is one of the few products that can go through many generations of recycling and not lose quality. About 31 percent of aluminum produced in the United States is made from recycled scraps and recycled material production only consumes five percent of the energy needed to produce new aluminum. CCNNE strives to purchase 60 percent of its aluminum cans as recycled aluminum. Bundled into bales as large as 700 pounds, the recycled aluminum collected by CCNNE and sent to recycling vendors can often come back in the form of new cans in as little as six weeks.
“When you have a thought process focused on sustainability, you would be surprised what people can do,” Dube said. Included among many ideas was one for healthier work processes to reduce back injuries.
Dube and two of his CCNNE colleagues also spread the good word about recycling and sustainability through extensive educational outreach in New England. “We teach a lot more about sustainability than what students might get at their school,” he said. “We not only talk about what we recycle but what it turns into.” For example, students learn that PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles go through a recycling transformation that leads to materials used for textiles, automotive parts, carpets and other goods made by New Hampshire companies such as Foss manufacturing in Hampton and Polartec in Hudson.
CCNNE and Climate Counts are both business partners of the Green Alliance, the Portsmouth organization representing more than 100 local green businesses and nearly 4,000 consumer members. CCNNE is also a member of New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility.
Mike Bellamente, the executive director of Climate Counts, said the high score for Coca-Cola reflects the company’s overall commitment to aggressively reduce its carbon footprint.
“They have not hidden behind the issue of climate change as a lot of companies have,” he said. “They have vocalized the need for carbon policy and support the UN Global Compact. They realize that consumers do care and there can be a connection between environmental leadership and brand loyalty.”
For more information about Coca-Cola of Northern New England, visit www.ccnne.com.
Find out more about the Green Alliance at www.greenalliance.biz.