As You Sow, an investor advocacy organization, began engaging bottled beverage companies 15 years ago to encourage them to improve their bottle/can recycling rates. After dialogue and the filing of proposals for several years, Coca-Cola agreed to recycle 50% of its PET, glass bottles, and aluminum cans by 2015; PepsiCo agreed to an industry recycling goal for 50% of PET, glass bottles and cans by 2018; and Nestle Waters NA agreed to an industry recycling goal of 60% of PET bottles by 2018. If these companies meet their 2018 goals, it will mean about 20 billion bottles and cans avoiding the landfill and instead providing valuable materials to bottling companies for recycled content in new bottles and cans.
Mark Preisinger, Director for Shareowner Affairs, Coca-Cola, told As You Sow: “I do believe [shareholders’ proposals] helped us get to where we are on the recycled content issue. The dialogue that we undertake with shareholders clearly helps advance agendas like this one inside our company.”
Further, what started out as an adversarial dialogue with Nestle Waters developed a couple of years later into a joint effort by As You Sow and Nestle Waters to convince other large brands to take financial responsibility for the collection and recycling of post-consumer bottles. This led to the development of a $100 million Closed Loop Fund by Walmart, along with Coke, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble and several other brands, to help fund improvements to U.S. recycling infrastructure, which will increase materials recycled.