Member Spotlight: Paul BowenOctober 4, 2018 | BIER
Company: The Coca Cola Company
BIER Working Groups: Water, Technology, and Benchmarking
Connect with Paul Bowen on Twitter and LinkedIn
Which of your company’s sustainability initiatives/achievements are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the fact we now have a water use ratio less than 2, which means we produce more product than wastewater. This is the 14th or 15th year in a row that we’ve seen a reduction in our water use ratio, and it’s a great story to tell. I did some of the very first water use ratio work back when I joined the company almost 20 years ago, so it has been very rewarding to see our progress in that area.
Close behind our water ratio achievement is the fact that all our plants either discharge to publicly owned treatment works or have on-site wastewater treatment—they are all are trying to do the right thing, which was not always the case 20 years ago. Despite our water use being fairly stable, the fact that we have become more efficient at producing beverages through stopping leaks and other best practices has been a big thing for us to accomplish.
What is your favorite practical insight you have gained from being in BIER?
There was a presentation done when we met in Puerto Rico that talked about seven ways, processes, and areas where we could conserve and/or reuse water in beverage manufacturing. To this day, I have continued to talk about those seven areas because they were so on-point and very common in the soft drink and beverage industry around the globe. It doesn’t matter what plant I go to—I can talk about water treatment, wastewater treatment, conveyors, boilers and cooling towers, clean-in-process, and everything else that’s in the plant and bingo—it resonates with people.
How has being in BIER shaped your sustainability strategy/enriched your sustainability strategy?
Being in BIER has allowed us insight into the technical aspects of what other companies are doing. I think it’s important to remember that BIER is a technical organization: It’s not about common goals and strategies, but learning what others are doing technically and being able to share what we’re doing technically. To hear different twists on practices allows us to expand what we do and to talk about these technical aspects of our work. We can say, “Have you tried doing this?” and hear the different responses from people, as well as the different ways they present and talk about things, and that has been quite helpful.
What area(s) of BIER’s work and the Water Working Group and the new Technology Working Group initiatives are you most interested in? Why?
One of most significant things to come out of Water Working Group was the Total Cost of Water tool, and I think that’s where a lot of groups are going. For example, Ecolab has a water monetizer online tool. The Total Cost of Water Tool was really good work.
I’m constantly fascinated by things we do in the Water Working Group. It’s a well-done group, and Andy Battjes deserves the credit for keeping it going and on point.
For new technologies—I can’t say yet because I’m looking forward to future involvement. There are new technologies emerging, it’s just important to focus on how we should best apply them within our own business model and operations.
It’s also important to remember that regardless of our sustainability initiatives, we are all in this to make money. We are all for-profit companies. One of the things we have to do is take the cost of the new technologies into consideration. One of my friends used to say “I want the world’s best mousetrap, but in my plant, I already have a mousetrap that works really well. What is the cost to put in this new best mousetrap, and is it REALLY going to help me save money, reduce cost, et cetera?” That’s how we are constantly looking at new technology: Will this be the new cost-effective way to go? Right now it might be more in the awareness stage versus actual implementation.
What’s one cool thing people might not know about you or your company?
At one time, for three to four years in a row, I swam 500 miles a year. If you factor in that I didn’t swim on weekends or holidays, sometimes I was swimming two or three miles a day. If I have a choice, I would rather swim over any other kind of exercise.
The other cool thing is that I did my first water treatment in the fourth grade! I saw a TV program on it, took out a coffee can, and built a water filter out of it. I do a lot of talks with young water professionals and one of my recurring presentation titles is, “Coffee Can to Sustainability Director.”
On the company side: we are a dairy company, coffee company, organic tea company, organic juice company, juice company, smoothie company, and a nutritional beverage company. People don’t realize the breadth of our portfolio. This is not meant as a commercial, but many people might not see all sides of our company. For example, our top-selling products in Japan are tea and coffee. If you ever visit Japan, try the Georgia Coffee, it comes in vending machines both warm or cold. There are lots of different varieties depending on what vending machine you visit—some with milk, some as lattes, just black coffee, and more.
About The Coca Cola Company:
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is a total beverage company, offering over 500 brands in more than 200 countries and territories. In addition to the company’s Coca-Cola brands, our portfolio includes some of the world’s most valuable beverage brands, such as AdeS soy-based beverages, Ayataka green tea, Dasani waters, Del Valle juices and nectars, Fanta, Georgia coffee, Gold Peak teas and coffees, Honest Tea, innocent smoothies and juices, Minute Maid juices, Powerade sports drinks, Simply juices, smartwater, Sprite, vitaminwater and ZICO coconut water. We’re constantly transforming our portfolio, from reducing sugar in our drinks to bringing innovative new products to market. We’re also working to reduce our environmental impact by replenishing water and promoting recycling. With our bottling partners, we employ more than 700,000 people, helping bring economic opportunity to local communities worldwide.
The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector.