Coca-Cola Enterprises’ Vision not Clouded by Greenhouse Gases…

February 18, 2010

Although the relentless winter weather may seem like more of a concern right now than greenhouse gases (GHG), a lot of companies have been mentioning them lately in their SEC filings.

Last month, the SEC issued some guidance on this topic. Still, there’s no formal rules as of yet. But with 10Ks flowing fast and furious, we wanted to take a closer look at what companies are saying. To do that, we took a digital —snapshot of one day’s filings that referred to greenhouse gas emissions.

Twelve of the 13 companies referred to one or more of the following: the public discussion about greenhouse gases, recent findings published by the EPA, pending legislation, debates over a cap and trade system and carbon taxes, policies in Europe and Canada, and — almost always — a statement that the passage of new greenhouse gas laws would probably increase operating costs.

However, one filing was dramatically different — the 10-K filed by Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. (CCE), the company that produces, distributes, and markets products of The Coca-Cola Company.

In the context of an initiative called —Commitment 2020, the company promises that it will invest in energy efficient technologies that improve company facilities and reduce carbon emissions. On page 21, it states:

—As part of our commitment to Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS), we have calculated the carbon footprint of our operations in each country where we do business, developed a GHG emissions inventory management plan, and set a public goal to reduce our carbon footprint by 15 percent by the year 2020, as compared to our 2007 baseline.

The company acknowledged that this plan involves risks: It might not achieve its goals, the financial investment might not yield the desired returns, and/or a failure might harm the company’s reputation.

For the rest of us, it’s often a challenge to determine whether a company’s claims are green, or greenwashing.

Admittedly, we’re relying on the statements in the annual report; but there are several passages in the filing that seem to support the company’s claims. Efforts range from introducing a plastic bottle at the current Winter Olympics that is constructed partly from plant materials, to plans to remediate any environmental hazards, to the measurable goals for five areas that are part of the Commitment 2020 plan (p. 29): —water stewardship, sustainable packaging/recycling, energy conservation/climate change, product portfolio/well-being, diverse and inclusive culture.

That’s a lot to accomplish in 10 years, but — by setting its own strategy rather than waiting for Congress to pass regulations and the SEC to require additional disclosure – CCE might have an interesting competitive edge.

Image source: Scientific American

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