Coca-Cola pledges to increase share of sales in refillable bottles as requested by As You Sow Proposal

With an eye to curbing plastic waste, The Coca-Cola Co. today announced an industry-leading goal to increase the share of its beverages delivered in returnable/refillable containers. The company committed to selling 25% of beverages in refillables by 2030, up from a current 16%. The pledge was in response to a pending shareholder proposal filed by As You Sow and Green Century Capital Management, asking the company to set stronger refillables goals.

“We are pleased to see the company increase its commitment to reusable bottles as a proven method to reduce single-use plastic waste and promote a circular economy for packaging,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. “We agree with the company that reusable packaging is among the most effective ways to reduce waste, use fewer resources, and lower carbon emissions. This action has the potential to substantially reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles used, many of which end up as ocean plastic pollution.”

recent analysis by Oceana indicated considerable potential to reduce ocean plastic by increasing refill market share. It concluded that boosting the share of refillable bottles by 10% in all coastal countries in place of single-use PET bottles could reduce plastic bottle marine plastic pollution by 22%. 

Nearly half of the company’s packaging consists of single-use PET plastic bottles, generating 3 million tons of plastic packaging annually, the equivalent of producing 200,000 bottles per minute. Single-use bottles are far more likely to be improperly disposed of and become ocean pollution, harming marine life. Refillables provide significant opportunities for faster, larger cuts in single-use plastic, since they don’t need to be remanufactured each time they are used. 

Coca-Cola has long operated significant refillable bottle operations in many markets. Refillables have demonstrated their ability to substantially cut plastic waste while providing substantial profits with a 90% collection rate. The bottles can be reused from 20 to 40 times. By comparison, less than 30% of single-use PET beverage containers are recycled in the U.S. Refillables account for 50% or more of company sales in more than 20 global markets, and 25% or more in another 40 markets, yet Coke had not committed until now to strategically increase refillables targets and timelines except in one country — Brazil. 

As You Sow filed the shareholder proposal in conjunction with Green Century Capital Management as co-lead filers. After additional analysis of the details of the company’s goal, the filers will determine whether to withdraw the proposal.