Posted by: Alexa Morris | April 17, 2017

Recycling for Profit

Over the years, Coca-Cola has framed recycling in a variety of ways to discuss the importance of reducing waste and their habits. The current generation vs. future generation frame is used to drive consumers to action (Bortree, Ahern, Smith & Dou, 2013). Coca-Cola’s recycling initiative in Great Britain encouraged customers to take a pledge to recycle and re-use their plastic in a creative way. This is one example of corporate environmental responsibility that was implemented with the intent to change customer’s behavior.

One way Coca-Cola loudly engaged in corporate environmental responsibility was through the development of a new “2-liter soda bottle made with 25% recycled postconsumer plastic” (Biddle, 1993). The new type of container developed by Coca-Cola was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which allows “the containers innovative packaging design to close the recycling loop, since the same plastics used in the making of the bottles can cycle back into Coca-Cola’s manufacturing process and be reused to make the same product” (Biddle, 1993). Before the new bottle was approved “Coca-Cola had to convince the FDA that the company could handle any possibility of contamination” (Biddle, 1993).

The effort to develop a new bottle strongly exemplifies the taking less vs. doing more framing strategy (Bortree et al., 2013).  First, Coca-Cola’s new bottle commends the corporation’s work towards environmental conscious production. The Harvard Business Review shared, “this pioneering work by Coca-Cola and the FDA, some of the outdated government regulating for hygienic quality in the packing of recyclable have been changed” (Biddle, 1993). Coca-Cola changed their environmental habits and drove other companies to think about their impact, rather than focusing on the consumer’s action. Coca-Cola created opportunities for other companies to develop other food and beverage containers made from postconsumer plastics. This new initiative does not focus on driving consumers to change their behavior. Instead, consumers are empowered to do more by supporting the corporation (aka Coca-Cola) that is doing more to help the environment.

Today as consumers continue to pivot toward soda alternatives, Coca-Cola must hold consumer’s attention, perhaps by solving environmental problems for the current generation. However, it’s possible after the Pepsi commercial last week that consumers will want the beverage industry to stay out of the ‘doing more’ space for awhile. Either way,  it will be important for Coca-Cola to engage in new ways, because according to Forbes in 2016, soda consumption fell to a 30-year low in the United States (Kell, 2016).

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