Stephen Moorhouse, General Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners in GB
Building back better for a brighter, more sustainable future
As we all take a moment today to mark the anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown, it’s a timely opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months, and consider how we want to move forward.
It’s clear that many of the challenges we faced in 2020 are still prevalent today. While we’re hopeful that normality will resume in the near future, with the Government’s new four-step roadmap for easing COVID measures and the on-going national vaccine programme, it’s now time to start to look ahead and share our hopes for brighter days and a brighter future.
What the food and drink sector now needs, more than anything, is a period of stability and support. While the UK’s exit from the EU poses some additional challenges, it does also provide clarity and means that as an industry we can plan and prepare more effectively. Companies and leaders alike are bought into the principle of ‘building back better’ as we mitigate the effects of the pandemic and we have an opportunity to make a continued difference.
Hospitality has been one of the worst hit sectors during the pandemic and there is no doubt it will have a long-lasting impact. However, businesses across the sector, including our own customers, have demonstrated an incredible resilience and we will continue to support them in any way we can. While the government’s latest package of support is hugely welcome, it’s vital that the sector has continued backing to help operators navigate the coming months, and we’re as committed as ever to helping our customers to do just that.
Last year we invested £20million in hundreds of businesses across the country and this month we are introducing ‘Project Open’, a business accelerator programme with Coca-Cola Great Britain, Costa and innocent, which will give a small group of independent customers in the hospitality industry – cafes, pubs and restaurants – the opportunity to gain business insights from our experts to help them recover faster from the pandemic. They will also receive one-to-one consultations with pioneering behavioural scientists, Influence at Work, to help them build stronger relationships and engagement with their customers. The programme forms just one part of our wider 2021 support plans we’re looking to roll out in the coming months.
The country is already gearing up and it was evident from the chancellor’s Budget that there is an emphasis on a green recovery through initiatives such as the new Net Zero Innovation Fund and National Infrastructure Bank. While COP26 in November may seem some time away from our perspective, this provides a focal point to bring about real and long-lasting change as we focus on a green and inclusive recovery. We remain focused on our green initiatives; on carbon we have pledged to set a path to becoming a net-zero business by 2040. We are also committed to reducing waste, having ensured that all bottles across our portfolio are made from 50% recycled plastic. This a significant milestone in our ambition to remove all non-recycled plastic from our bottles, which will be accelerated once measures within the Resource and Waste Strategy are implemented.
It’s also imperative that we don’t lose sight of the impact that the pandemic continues to have on our communities. We continue to support those causes close to our employee’s hearts – whether that’s through volunteering hours or charitable donations, or continuing to work with charities like FareShare, Neighbourly and Company Shop who are doing such vital work.
The pandemic has put an increased emphasis on public health. We have demonstrated longstanding support for the government’s ambition to reduce obesity; between 2010 and 2019, we reduced the amount of sugar we contribute to customers’ diets across our portfolio by more than 45,000 tonnes, and undertook extensive reformulation of our products. We also apply clear nutritional labelling on our drinks. Today, we sell more Coca-Cola without sugar than we do with, and low and no calorie drinks now account for 66% of all sales. Our aim continues to be to help people reduce the sugar they consume while offering them a choice of great tasting drinks.
I am heartened by what we have overcome together - along with others I feel optimism and renewed focus. If we can all take the learnings from the most challenging of times and remain committed to going even further to make a difference then we can all be proud to be playing a role in the country’s recovery from the pandemic to a brighter, more sustainable future.