Five Atlanta companies among the greenest companies in America

Newsweek recently released its annual rankings of the greenest companies in America.

Five Atlanta-based companies landed in the top 100 including Coca-Cola Enterprises (9) — a multinational marketer, producer, and distributor of Coca-Cola products — Delta Air Lines Inc (44), Invesco Ltd (77), Newell Rubbermaid Inc (89) and Home Depot Inc (91).

The Coca-Cola Neon Spectacular: You've seen this sign atop the Olympia Building at Five Points since 2003, but its history goes back much further than that. Just a few blocks up the street at Margaret Mitchell Square, where you'll find the Candler Building, Coca-Cola had a series of neon signs going back to 1932. In 1938, the sign incorporated a weather display including icons of rain drops, snowflakes, clouds and sun. The large circular "Neon Spectacular" sign was installed in 1948, and is still fondly remembered by longtime Atlantans as our city's answer to Times Square. In 1981, that sign was dismantled when Georgia-Pacific moved its headquarters to Atlanta. The new building swallowed up the sign's traffic island as part of its plaza. Robert W. Woodruff himself ordered the sign removed in order to help negotiations with G-P's move. It wasn't until 2003 that a replacement sign went up at the current Five Points location -- diagonally from the southwest corner of Peachtree and Marietta Streets, where Jacob's Pharmacy first introduced Coca-Cola in 1886. (PETE CORSON / pcorson@ajc.com)

The Coca-Cola Neon Spectacular which has been  atop the Olympia Building at Five Points since 2003. (PETE CORSON / pcorson@ajc.com)

Don’t confuse Coca-Cola Enterprises — the bottlers — with the Coca-Cola Company — the ones who make the beverages.  The Coca-Cola Company, which came in at number 103 on the list of green companies, owns a minority stake in Coca-Cola Enterprises, but they’ve also been doing their part to go green.

Read more: Companies go green to boost image, profits

For starters, they have a chief sustainability officer. That wasn’t always the case.

Back in 2010, Muhtar Kent, the chief executive officer of Coca-Cola, told Forbes magazine he considered himself Coca-Cola’s “chief sustainability officer.”

“I have not appointed another one and never will. That’s me,” he said.

At some point over the last six years, Kent must have eaten (or maybe he drank?) his words.

Today, the actual CSO for almost five years has been Bea Perez, a Coke employee since 1996.

As she puts it, her job is to keep global teams organized and focused on the issue of sustainability in the many ways that can manifest itself in a company as large as Coke.

Sustainability, she has said, is about more than the environment. It includes creating value, the impact on society, being focused on people and making communities better.

PHOTOS: Coca-Cola lives here: The homes of Atlanta’s beverage

Coke has set some very ambitious goals, such as replenishing 100 percent of the water they use by 2020. Over the last several years, the company has saved more than $1.6 billion by becoming more water efficient.

At the 2105 World Expo, Coca-Cola announced PlantBottle, the recyclable PET plastic made of 30 percent plant-based materials. (The other 70 percent is made from traditional fossil fuel-based sources.) When the company put its  Dasani brand in the PlantBottle, Perez said there was “noticeable growth in the brand.”

At Coke, the greening doesn’t just come from the top. Teams around the globe get in on the efforts by creating sustainability competitions and compiling best practices to share with other business units, Perez said.

 So Coke, which just celebrated 130 years, may have its struggles, but for a company that produces 3,000 beverage products around the globe, they aren’t doing such a bad job when it comes to sustainability.

 

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