Doing What We Can to Make a Difference

This year, the theme for Mandela Day is, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are". Twenty years ago, Coca‑Cola looked at where it was, what it had, and what it could do differently.


Subsequently, it released its first Environmental Report, signalling a revitalised approach to environmental, social, and governance issues. Much progress was made from these early steps of "institutionalising concern for environmental issues", i.e., making it part of the corporate culture. As CEO Douglas Daft said at the time, the company's values – integrity, respect for people and the environment – were necessary to achieve its business goal, namely a combination of the responsible use of natural resources, care for the health of our communities and ethical management.

As Mandela Day is a call to action, a relevant issue to tackle would be water – our most precious commodity – and to do what we can with the resources we have, thus contributing to helping transform the world, making a difference and keeping Mandela's legacy alive.

The challenges we face on water issues – witness the recent water crises in several local municipalities – are a testament to the crucial need for water stewardship. For example, in response to the deteriorating situation in Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) in the Eastern Cape, Coca‑Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) is working with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and other key stakeholders, including Gift of the Givers, to deliver water to vulnerable and distressed communities.

The company donated 20 x 5,000 litre JoJo tanks to be placed at water collection points around the city. In addition, 500 water wheelers will be distributed to communities to aid water collection and storage. CCBSA will deploy three Coke Ville sites – off-grid, solar-powered groundwater harvesting and treatment projects – to the worst affected areas within Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, such as Walmer. These Coke Ville sites, which will come online in August 2022, have a minimum annual potential of replenishing 90 million litres per annum at no cost to the beneficiaries.

Coca‑Cola’s other bottling partner, Coca‑Cola Peninsula Beverages is doing what they can in the waste space by partnering up with #PlasticFreeMzansi and has encouraged communities to clean up in areas in their neighbourhoods. It will also be supporting the Ladies of Love’s attempt to break the World Record for the largest food can mosaic, which will be a portrait of Nelson Mandela, at Cape Town Convention Centre on Mandela Day. CCPB donated R10 000 to this initiative and all funds raised and food cans will go towards supporting 150+ beneficiary organisations in the Western Cape and Gauteng who are in dire need.

Going back to water, over the last 20 years, the Coca‑Cola "system" – the company and its bottling partners – has created a legacy of water stewardship across the globe that is making a difference. During this time, it has implemented the 2030 Water Security Strategy focusing globally on increasing water security through water replenishment, promoting smart water policies and responsible water use across all operations and supply chains.

Earlier this year, Coca‑Cola Africa Operating Unit (AOU) and its bottling partners launched JAMII, an Africa-focused sustainability platform. The platform houses the Company's initiatives and attracts like-minded partners to help accelerate the on-the-ground impact of its existing and new sustainability initiatives in three areas: water (stewardship), waste (management), and wealth (economic empowerment of women and youth).

Coca‑Cola aims to replenish 100% of the water used in its products' production by managing its operations' water use efficiency, supporting the conservation of natural water resources and improving community water access and climate change adaption. One highlight of this stewardship was the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) and other water-based initiatives across 41 African countries, such as WASH – water, access, sanitation and hygiene.

By the end of 2020, this combined effort by Coca‑Cola Africa, The Coca‑Cola Foundation (TCCF) and its partners resulted in sustainable access to drinking water for over six million people. TCCF contributed $65 million to the RAIN programme.

In South Africa, several projects were undertaken under the RAIN initiative. For example, TCCF, with its local partner World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA), brought together the interests, actions and mandates of those connected to local water source areas. As recognised by the Department of Environmental Affairs, removing thirsty invasive alien plants is essential to securing South Africa's water supply – both in cost-effectiveness and economic empowerment opportunities. Coca‑Cola and TCCF support these efforts by investing strategically in the country's future water supply.

These projects facilitated water security through natural resource governance and restoration of ecological infrastructures. This included alien plant management and clearing alien species – like black wattle – to improve grazing management in several catchment areas. The project positively impacted the lives of the local communities by creating employment opportunities to clear the alien invasive species.

This year, TCCF is investing in four new projects to remove "thirsty" invasive alien plants from critical water catchment areas feeding major cities and towns across the country. These projects will help to return precious litres to nature. The projects target water stress occurring in downstream urban areas of South Africa and will implement several upstream nature-based solutions:

· Collaborating with Living Lands in the Langkloof and Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape, which supports the Kouga Dam serving the Gqeberha metropolitan area;

·Partnering with the World Wildlife Foundation in the Enkangala Drakensberg of Mpumalanga, which supports the Integrated Vaal River System serving Gauteng;

· Joining The Nature Conservancy in the Du Toits catchment area of the Western Cape, which supports the Theewaterskloof Dam serving the Cape Town Water Supply System; and,

· Uniting with the World Wildlife Foundation in the Elgin and Grabow catchment of the Western Cape, which supports the agricultural area of Groenland and the Cape Town Water Supply System.

In collaboration with implementing partners, these projects are designed to address water security issues upstream, in cost-effective and locally appropriate ways, rather than prohibitively expensive solutions downstream in cities.

Climate change threatens South Africa's already water-stressed development, and part of Coca‑Cola's vision to make a difference is to "give back" by using nature-based solutions to ensure the country's water supply, sanitation, food, and energy sustainability. This is what we can do with what we have where we are. And in so doing, support the advancement of sustainable, circular economy initiatives and enhance the livelihoods of women and youth in rural communities plagued by high unemployment.