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Coca-Cola Just Made the Kind Of Tough Decision That Will Make Some Customers Very Angry

Coca-Cola Just Made the Kind Of Tough Decision That Will Make Some Customers Very Angry

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.  The world is ending. It's just

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Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

The world is ending. It’s just that we’re not quite sure when and how.

It’s as well, though, to try and save it for as long as possible using every means possible. Isn’t it?

I only ask because Coca-Cola made the sort of announcement that might have a few world-caring heads spinning. At the recent Davos Conference of Corporate Champions aka the World Economic Forum, the famous beverage company said that no, no, it wouldn’t stop selling its drinks in single-use plastic bottles, so please could you just stop whining.

Coca-Cola didn’t quite phrase it that way. Instead, its Head of Sustainability Bea Perez said plastic bottles are here to stay because that’s what customers actually, really want.

Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers.

Well, yes, but humans are immensely self-destructive. Shouldn’t corporations — which are people too, after all — be responsible for helping humans save themselves from themselves?

Perez insisted that if the company switched to focus on only glass or aluminum its carbon footprint could increase.

Coca-Cola has declared that it will “aspire to create packaging that contains at least 50 percent recycled material by 2030 and continue pursuing the goal to make all consumer packaging 100 percent recyclable by 2025.”

Aspire to.

This clearly won’t satisfy some. Even some who are customers. Environmental policy is an emotive subject for many, especially the young.

Yet how are corporations supposed to satisfy people’s hypocrisy? Everyone cries out for something to be done, yet ululates uncontrollably when that something means individual sacrifice.

Should a company do the right thing immediately? Or should it wait for customers to tell it when to do it?

You might suspect, however, that Coca-Cola is merely being clever in insisting that consumers don’t want to give up plastic bottles. Is it merely trusting its own research? Is it sure this research is accurate?

I only ask because a new piece of research has just descended onto my laptop. Performed by research company Piplsay, this study asked 20,832 American consumers what they truly felt about Coke’s plastic bottles stance.

26 percent of respondents said they quite agreed with Coca-Cola’s position. A fulsome 19 percent declared: “Whatever, I don’t care.” 

Then again, 23 percent insisted brands always put profits first. 22 percent said the environment was the most important thing and 10 percent contented themselves by ticking the box marked: “Really? You’re doing this just for us?”

That doesn’t seem entirely to reflect Coca-Cola’s position. Some will wonder, therefore, why the company is so adamant.

Coke’s Perez believes that people will only move slowly toward the righteous light: 

As we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us. 

But how daring should Coca-Cola be in showing consumers the way? 

Sometimes, it seems like the biggest companies are the least daring of all.

Published on: Feb 1, 2020

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

This article is from Inc.com

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