Coca-Cola makes global commitment to climate-friendly refrigeration

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 4th December 2009

The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners have announced that a major greenhouse gas (hydrofluorocarbon) will be eliminated from all of their new vending machines and coolers by 2015.

Coca-Cola said they would use their scale to aggregate demand and encourage supply as a means of accelerating the transition to HFC-free refrigeration equipment.

“This announcement is a direct result of work with Greenpeace that began in 2000, and a demonstration that phasing out the use of HFCs is a tangible and near-term action corporations can take to protect the climate,” the soft drink giant advised in a statement.

The transition to HFC-free refrigeration will reduce the equipment’s direct greenhouse gas emissions by 99 per cent. A recent peer-reviewed report by top scientists shows that HFCs will be responsible for between 28 per cent and 45 per cent of carbon-equivalent emissions by 2050 if society reduces carbon dioxide while leaving HFCs unchecked. Eliminating HFCs in the commercial refrigeration industry would be equivalent to eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions of Germany or Japan.

“Climate change is real and the time to act on solutions is now,” explained Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “Greenpeace has played a critical role in raising our awareness about the need for natural refrigeration. Our announcement today demonstrates a commitment to use our influence in the marketplace to drive innovation and help shape a low-carbon future.”

This step by Coca-Cola will help accelerate a market shift in commercial refrigeration away from HFCs, the manufacturer suggested, adding that they have invested more than $50 million in research and development to advance the use of climate-friendly cooling technologies. In 2010, The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners will purchase a minimum of 150,000 units of HFC-free equipment, effectively doubling the current rate of purchase to enable alignment with an interim goal to purchase 50 per cent of all new coolers and vending machines without HFCs by 2012.

The Company and its bottling partners have approximately 10 million coolers and vending machines in place today around the world, comprising the largest element of the Coca-Cola system’s total climate impact. As a result of the commitment to eliminate the use of HFCs in this equipment, carbon emission reductions will exceed 52.5 million metric tons over the life of the equipment – the equivalent of taking more than 11 million cars off the road for one year.

“We welcome Coca-Cola’s commitment to help tackle climate change; large enterprises have both an opportunity and responsibility to change the game and Coca-Cola’s action leaves no excuse for other companies not to follow,” said Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International.

Already, a major Coke supplier has communicated its intention to build a dedicated CO 2 compressor production facility, helping to meet the growing demand for HFC-free refrigeration options throughout the industry.

“Addressing climate change requires leadership and collaboration,” said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Just days away from the negotiations in Copenhagen, this announcement by Coca-Cola and Greenpeace demonstrates that investments in low-carbon technologies can make business sense.”

Coolers and vending machines impact the climate in three ways: through direct energy use (operating the machine), through chemicals used in the machine’s insulation foam, and by leakage or improper end-of-life disposal of the refrigerant gas used in the cooling system.

Coca-Cola currently utilises two HFC-free solutions: Hydrocarbon refrigeration is used in smaller refrigeration equipment and carbon dioxide ( CO 2 ) is used in larger equipment. CO 2 is a safe, reliable and energy efficient alternative with positive characteristics as a refrigerant. It does not deplete the ozone layer and it is 1,430 times less damaging to the climate than a typical HFC.