Lifetime of Achievement: Bea Perez

Managing the environmental impact of the world’s largest beverage company, Bea Perez pairs business chops with a passion for sustainability

In the three decades since joining The Coca-Cola Company, Bea Perez has made quite the impact. 

Rising through the senior-level brand management, marketing and operational ranks, Perez first entered The Coca-Cola Company C-suite just 15 years after joining.

Serving first as Chief Marketing Officer, Perez built brands, developed key relationships including with American Idol and NASCAR, and incorporated sustainability initiatives into Coca-Cola’s North American marketing programmes.

Pairing business acumen with a passion for sustainability, Perez was named the beverage giant’s first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer in 2011 – one of just 29 CSOs in publicly traded companies in the US. 

Described by leadership as “authentic”, she famously learned how to drive a Coca-Cola delivery truck to see the business from the ground up.

As CSO of the world’s largest beverage company, with 82,500 employees and US$10.7 billion in net income – Perez was present at COP21, when the Paris accord was agreed, and created and oversees Coca-Cola’s integrated global sustainability strategy.

Delivering Global ESG Leadership

Setting high-level goals and commitments with a focus on water stewardship, sustainable packaging, environment and women’s economic empowerment, Perez drives focus, collaboration and scale. 

“I’ve learned that I have to look at water, packaging and climate all together because I don’t want to set a goal that has an unintended impact,” she recently told Wall Street Journal in an interview.

She has led her team to become a driving force behind the company’s World Without Waste programme, an ambitious packaging initiative that aims to help collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one sold by 2030 – and developed and led global commitments to advance water stewardship and women’s economic empowerment.

Under her visionary leadership, Cola-Cola has established women’s economic programmes in more than 100 countries as part of its 5by20 initiative to enable the economic empowerment of 6 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. 

“It was ambitious, it was aspirational – but we did it and so much more,” says Perez of the initiative.

Taking charge of Coca-Cola’s communications function in 2017, as Senior Vice President & Chief Communications, Sustainability & Strategic Partnerships Officer, Perez now leads an integrated team to support the company’s new growth model and path to become a total beverage company. 

Over the last seven years, she has not only delivered global leadership in ESG, overseeing the strategy, driving scaled investments and managing global NGO partnerships and key sustainability projects – but also in communications, including digital media strategy for company-owned channels, global brand PR and financial communications. 

“I align a diverse portfolio of work against The Coca-Cola Company’s business objectives to support brands, communities, consumers and partners worldwide,” Perez says of her role. 

As Chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, Perez is a leading advocate of community service driving contributions of US$94.8 million to 301 organisations globally in 2022. 

For her efforts, Perez has been awarded numerous accolades, from being recognised among Sustainability Magazine’s Top 10 CSOs, and a Conservation Trailblazer by The Trust for Public Land, to being named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Latinas by CNN. 

Perez Progressing ESG Commitments

Selling around 2.2 billion drinks servings daily across more than 200 brands, and with operations in more than 200 countries and regions, Coca-Cola’s carbon footprint is extensive – 65 million metric tons in 2022, with 88% across the value chain. 

The company has committed to reaching net zero emissions across the value chain by 2050 along with goals in packaging, water use and sustainable agriculture. 

Targets include 100% recyclable packaging globally by 2025, 25% fewer emissions by 2030, 50% recycled content in packaging by 2030, and 100% regenerative water use in 175 plants in high-water-stress areas by 2030. 

Among notable achievements, Cola-Cola has exceeded its ambitious 100% water replenishment goal five years ahead of schedule, increased recycled packaging to 90%, and collected and recycled 69% of its bottle and cans sold globally. 

The first company to launch plant-based bottles, today more than 40 markets offer at least one brand in 100% rPET packaging, while eight markets in Europe deliver their entire locally produced portfolios in 100% rPET.

The company has also made significant progress in areas of CSR, from investing in renewable energy to working with farmers to improve agricultural practices. As of 2022, 64% of its global priority ingredient volumes were sustainably sourced.

Under Perez’s watch, Coca-Cola has continued to roll out ground-breaking initiatives and breakthrough technologies – from linking ESG goals to executive compensation, to investing in new recycling technologies and pioneering design changes to reduce packaging waste. 

Like turning Sprite bottles from green to clear plastic to make them easier to recycle back into bottles and in its latest sustainable move – introducing label-less packaging with laser technology. 

As Perez puts it, “People will no longer accept brands that are not doing things that are good for them.”

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