Pankaj Sinha, Managing Director of Coca-Cola – Sri Lanka and Maldives, speaking on the significance of sustainability in the FMCG sector said candidly on LMDtv that “one of the first things that strikes me whenever I travel across Sri Lanka is its immense natural beauty.”

He added: “It reminds me of my responsibilities as a resident and global citizen towards nature.”

“As a corporate citizen, to focus on sustainability is simply the right thing to do. Then as a responsible manufacturer, it should be ingrained in the organisation to protect the ecosystems around us and make a difference. Therefore, as a company we need to limit the carbon footprint that we leave behind,” he remarked.

Sinha also noted that “environmental protection is now a core global social and economic issue. Various studies with millennials and teens show that the next generation admires brands and companies that have a serious intent and commitment towards sustainability.”

“As a father of a teenager, I know how they think. In this context too, it makes perfect sense to focus on ‘green manufacturing’ as consumers are moving towards eco-friendly brands,” he urged.

Strongly advocating sustainability in the beverage sector, Sinha said: “Every human being on this planet requires three litres of beverage every day. While the majority of it is unpackaged, there’s a sizable market for packaged drinks; and there is a growing awareness among consumers, retailers and producers to reduce related waste.”

“Coca-Cola is intent on recycling every bottle we produce as part of our ‘world without waste’ commitment – great strides have been made to improve recyclability of our packaging. We see a great response from all stakeholders – in the Maldives, we have launched the Bon Aqua brand of water, which is sold in returnable glass bottles; and in Bangladesh, we have invested in producing water in plastic packs, which are made of used materials,” he added.

Delving into the company’s performance on sustainability, he assured: “We’re committed to regular reporting on our accomplishments, the most significant being to be water positive by more than 200 percent.”

He elaborated: “This means that we give back twice the amount of water we use in the production process to communities and nature through local initiatives – rehabilitating ancient tanks in Monaragala and Anuradhapura is a prime example.”

“We have established more than 550 plastic collection points and 28 large plastic collection centres. Further, we’ve invested in two material recovery facilities, conducted more than 70 clean up initiatives and partnered with almost 110 organisations under our recycling programmes,” Sinha stated.

And he explained that “the plastic waste collected is given to our partners to upcycle, and make yarn, bristles and brushes to be exported to at least 15 countries.”

“Further, as part of the climate action programme, the company has invested almost Rs. 200 million in one of the largest solar rooftop projects in Sri Lanka – nearly 80 percent of our Biyagama rooftop is covered with solar panels through which we produce 1.9 megawatts of power. We will remain committed towards green manufacturing,” he emphasised.

Sinha cited the contribution of the Coca-Cola Foundation during the pandemic: “We supported Sri Lanka with more than Rs. 110 million worth of PPE and VTM kits, and executed COVID-19 awareness drives. And 6,000 families were provided with a month’s dry rations, a medical kit and an essential sanitary pack.”

As for the economic impact of FMCG brands in the country, he observed: “The total contribution of the food, beverage and tobacco sector to Sri Lanka’s GDP was estimated to be in the range of 24-26 percent in 2021. This market has shown steady year on year growth as more communities embrace urbanisation.”

“As people move to towns and cities, our needs for packaged products increase – this drives FMCG consumption,” he concluded.