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Sustainability Faceoff: Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo

It’s easy to have an opinion in the Coke versus Pepsi taste wars, but things get a little murky when corporate sustainability is taken into account. In the new book “The HIP Investor,” R. Paul Herman attempts to sort out the sustainability claims of Coca Cola Co. and PepsiCo. So who comes out on top?

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Coke Pepsi faceoff

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It’s easy to have an opinion in the Coke versus Pepsi taste wars, but things get a little murky when corporate sustainability is taken into account. In the new book The HIP Investor, R. Paul Herman attempts to sort out the sustainability claims of Coca Cola Co. and PepsiCo. So who comes out on top?

Coke’s most impressive step toward sustainability is its “Commitment 2020” plan, which outlines the company’s goals over the next 10 years. These include: a carbon footprint reduction of 15% (from a 2007 baseline), minimizing
water use, recovering 100% of packaging, and increasing
recycling. Coca-Cola has also pledged to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)–potent greenhouse gases used as refrigerants–by 2015. Lisa Manley, the Director of Sustainable Communications at Coca-Cola, explained the company’s commitment to using local resources in an interview with Herman: “There are some places we use sugar cane, in Europe there is sugar beet, and there are some places we use corn syrup. We look at what is available in the local market and what is the cost structure.”

The company still has a long way to go, however, especially where water is concerned. Coca-Cola used 300 billion liters of water in 2007–just 2% less water than the company used in 2002. The company has, however partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to cut down on water use. And it plans to improve water efficiency by 20% by 2012 compared to a 2004 baseline.

PepsiCo, on the other hand, has committed to cut water use by 20%, slash fuel use by 25%, and cut electricity by 25% by 2015 compared to 2006 levels. And like Coke, the company is committed to removing HFCs from vending machines. PepsiCo has also made strides in food sustainability–the company owns SunChips, which recently unveiled the first 100% compostable chip bag.

But Pepsi isn’t perfect. The company has been accused of draining aquifers in areas where water is scarce, and it hasn’t exactly made strides in cutting some of the most toxic ingredients from its products–benzoate compounds in soda, for example. Still, we think that the company ultimately trumps Coke for its achievable yet impressive goals.

Excerpted from The HIP Investor: Make Bigger Profits by Building a Better World by R. Paul Herman Copyright (c) Published by John Wiley & Sons. Used with permission.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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