Coca-Cola’s greatest obstacle in greening its operations is its very own worldwide marketing technique

Coca-Cola is 1 of the world’s most commonly acknowledged models. Its international get to, spanning far more than 200 nations, was the theme of a 2020 industrial that showed families ingesting Coke with their foods in cities from Orlando, Florida, to Shanghai, London, Mexico Metropolis and Mumbai, India.  

Running on that scale generates a significant carbon footprint. The company works by using above 200,000 autos to distribute its solutions just about every working day and runs hundreds of bottling plants and syrup factories across the globe.

But Coke’s solitary premier contribution to weather alter arrives from its refrigeration devices.

Operating fridges utilizes a ton of electrical energy and some coolants in these devices are greenhouse gases that trap heat in the ambiance. Virtually two-thirds of the climate effects of refrigeration arrives from electrical power consumption and refrigerants account for the relaxation. As of 2020, refrigeration developed almost 8% of world greenhouse gasoline emissions.

History indicates that the most helpful way to shrink Coca-Cola’s refrigeration emissions may be to question no matter whether the corporation needs that cooling tools working around the clock at ease merchants on avenue corners throughout the world. Which is a heretical idea for a company obsessed with generating positive Coca-Cola is often inside “an arm’s get to of want,” as a person Coke president place it.

As I demonstrate in my new reserve, “Country Capitalism: How Businesses from the American South Remade Our Economic climate and the World,” main providers like Coca-Cola have profited handsomely by producing their items readily readily available worldwide. In undertaking so, they have produced a speedy-paced, lengthy-length kind of commerce that is a main driver of our planet’s recent ecological disaster.

Required: an excellent refrigerant

Refrigerants initially became an environmental problem because of issues about ozone loss, not local climate improve. Prior to the 1980s, the key coolants employed in refrigerators were chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. Discovered in the 1920s by a chemist at General Motors, these compounds were being odorless, nonflammable and seemingly nontoxic — all houses that built them useful to business. In the following decades, CFCs grew to become the main refrigerant made use of to continue to keep items cool.

Then, in the 1970s, researchers at the College of California located that CFCs could demolish stratospheric ozone, a gasoline in the atmosphere that protects lifestyle on Earth from the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Nations eventually moved to ban use of CFCs by way of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a single of the most productive environmental treaties on record.  

Chemical businesses this kind of as DuPont led the way in endorsing new chlorine-absolutely free refrigerants, referred to as hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, that would not deplete the ozone layer. Like CFCs, HFCs appealed to marketplace since they have been odorless, nonflammable and posed no major threats to human wellbeing.

But HFCs had a big disadvantage: They were potent greenhouse gases that trapped heat in the Earth’s environment, warming the planet’s surface area. Some HFCs had warming impacts far more than 1,000 occasions higher than carbon dioxide, the most ample greenhouse gasoline.


How refrigerants do the job and why they are undesirable for the local climate. 

HFC politics

Firms like Coca-Cola realized about HFCs’ climate-warming results when they started transitioning to this new refrigerant in the 1990s. Bryan Jacobs, a Coca-Cola engineer who worked on this changeover, advised me in an interview that early on, refrigeration experts in Europe encouraged yet another promising route instead.

Greenpeace advocates in Germany experienced worked carefully with refrigeration engineers to develop what came to be recognised as Greenfreeze cooling devices: devices that utilised hydrocarbons, such as isobutane and propane, as refrigerants. These refrigerants, which had a international warming effects radically reduce than HFCs, provided the prospect of defending both equally the ozone layer and the climate.

Jacobs informed me that Coca-Cola was “rather dismissive,” largely mainly because his group feared that these refrigeration units stuffed with flammable material might explode — particularly in rural places missing specialized guidance. In its place, Coca-Cola shifted to HFCs.

In reaction, Greenpeace released a major marketing campaign at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to expose how Coca-Cola’s HFC units had been warming the world. Doug Daft, an Australian who was Coke’s CEO at the time, fully commited the firm to removing HFC refrigeration from its devices in the several years ahead.

Normally in arm’s access

Since 2000, Coca-Cola has turn into a environment leader in producing HFC-totally free refrigeration devices. At 1st it invested heavily in a novel kind of fridge that utilised carbon dioxide as the crucial refrigerant. Before long, nonetheless, the firm identified that hydrocarbon refrigerants posed less security dangers than they experienced originally feared and started adopting these models as effectively.

Coca-Cola also convinced other companies to change away from HFCs. Partnering with Unilever, Pepsi, Crimson Bull and other massive companies, the firm released Refrigerants, The natural way!, an organization fully commited to transitioning major food and beverage businesses towards HFC-absolutely free refrigeration. In 2010, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent persuaded some 400 consumer products corporations to dedicate to reducing HFCs from their refrigeration techniques.

By 2016, Coke described that 61% of all new cooling products it obtained was HFC-free. 4 yrs later, that determine attained 83%.

Even now, as of 2022, extra than 10% of Coke’s new refrigeration units contained HFCs and refrigeration remained its single premier greenhouse gasoline emissions source. Element of the trouble is that all of these models operate on electrical energy, much of which is produced by burning fossil fuels. With Coca-Cola offering about 2.2 billion beverages every single day, trying to keep Coke cold however has an massive carbon footprint. The same is correct for Coke’s competitors.


Coca-Cola sells hundreds of beverage manufacturers around the globe, reflecting its approach for dominating the beverage sector.

In an job interview with Coca-Cola’s former main sustainability officer, Jeff Seabright, I asked him irrespective of whether the corporation had at any time thought of contemplating a lot more broadly about the necessity of cooling all those people Cokes around the clock. Seabright’s reaction was an emphatic “No,” and that the corporation was however pushed by the mantra of making Coke obtainable for rapid consumption at the issue of sale.

Even with the resources that Coca-Cola has invested in switching refrigerants, its cooling machines is still warming our planet. As I see it, possibly it can be time for Coke to concern irrespective of whether it needs all those devices in the initially place — and for people to take into consideration whether or not their have-it-now anticipations are really worth the environmental costs they impose.

Bart Elmore, Professor of Background, The Ohio State University

This short article is republished from The Conversation under a Innovative Commons license. Examine the unique short article.