Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) has been called into question after being labelled as greenwashing by climate activists.
The sponsorship deal has been slammed by climate activists including Greenpeace, arguing Coca-Cola produces 120 billion single-use plastic bottles a year, ranking the drinks company as one of the globe’s top plastic polluters.
“Coca-Cola sponsoring the COP27 is pure ‘greenwash’,” said Break Free From Plastic coordinator Emma Priestland. “Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic. Over four years, we’ve found Cola-Cola to be the world’s top plastic polluter in our annual brand audits. It’s astounding that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.”
Responding to the criticism, Coca-Cola said it shares “the goal of eliminating waste from the ocean and appreciates efforts to raise awareness about this challenge”, pointing to its “ambitious goals” that start with “helping to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one we sell – regardless of where it comes from – by 2030.”
COP27 takes place in Egypt’s Sharm-El Sheikh next month. Previous sponsors of the event have included Unilever in 2016, which is currently ranked the world’s third-worst plastic polluter. Last year Jaguar Land Rover was the sponsor of COP26, leading to environmental activists questioning the legitimacy of the climate conference.
The deal with Coca-Cola was signed by the Egyptian government. During the signing ceremony at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Ahmed Rady, Coca-Cola’s vice-president of operations for North Africa, said: “Coca-Cola’s firm belief that working together through meaningful partnerships will create shared opportunities for communities and people around the world and in Egypt.”
Brand activism agency Don’t Cry Wolf founder and CEO John Brown insisted: “Coca-Cola sponsoring COP27 is the last nail in the coffin for the conference. It’s clear now that it’s little more than a political posturing party, sponsored by some of the most polluting brands on the planet.
“All in all, Coke can keep COP as far as I’m concerned. We have to instead embrace meaningful community-based action, and brands brave enough to do that are the ones that will win consumer hearts and minds.”
Recent research commissioned by the PRCA Misinformation in the Climate Crisis strategy group, found that more than half of the UK population did not know what the outcome of COP26 was, and more than a third said that COP doesn’t affect them.
The Good Agency founder Chris Norman added: “COP27 is shining a bright light on Coca-Cola’s woefully inadequate response to the environmental damage they are causing. Coca-Cola Company’s pledge to reduce 25% of packaging to be reusable by 2030 is just one example of falling catastrophically short of the level of action required to address the damage its plastic packaging is causing. It gives its pedestrian pace of change a veneer of acceptability.”
However, Coca-Cola commented: “In 2020 we signed a joint statement urging United Nations member states to adopt a global treaty to tackle the plastic waste issue through a holistic, circular economy approach … Our support for COP27 is in line with our science-based target to reduce absolute carbon emissions 25% by 2030, and our ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Greenpeace USA oceans campaign director John Hocevar, ‘baffled’ by the sponsorship deal, has called for “Coca-Cola to turn off its plastic tap” in order to solve the plastic and climate crisis.
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