The Campaign for Rural England has commissioned a research project whereby consumers of soft drinks shall be asked to leave a small deposit after completing their purchase. The deposit is redeemable after returning the empty can, bottle or carton. The objective of this is to boost recycling efforts in England; bringing it in line with other European States. This paper provides a Public Relations approach to the firm of Coca Cola advising the firm as to how they should respond to the proposal.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE
Beverage containers that are disposed of in the UK are rapidly becoming a major environmental problem. Our current recycling efforts have had only a minimum effect on helping to solve the problem. Only Denmark seems to be getting this under control throughout the whole of Europe. It has been estimated that in excess of 51,000 tonnes of plastic waste is disposed of in the UK each year. The UK is however taking some affirmative action in order to reduce the problem. In 2009 a recycling plant opened in Dagenham, Essex "The Closed Loop recycling plant claims to be the first in the world to take both milk bottles and clear drinks bottles and turn them back into food-grade plastic. Once it is up and running, the £13m facility aims to help create a continuous cycle by enabling manufacturers to use recycled plastic from the UK in their food and drink packaging." (Jeavans 2008).
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It is really a question of doing the right thing with our waste containers. For example: "Essentially the consumer buys their product, say, a bottle of Coca Cola. If they do the right thing with that bottle and place it in the recycling it will have every chance of ending up at our plant and eventually being turned back into another Coke bottle," says Closed Loop London's managing director, Chris Dow (Jeavans 2008). The consumption of soft drinks in the UK is a huge business "In the UK in 2009 total soft drinks consumption was 14,140 million litres, or 229.1 litres per person. The average household consumes 540.68 litres of soft drink per year." (Sexton 2010). The financial implications are equally significant " The soft drinks industry was worth £13.2 billion in 2009 and includes large companies, such as Coca Cola Enterprises and Britvic, with profits larger than the Gross National Product (GNP) of small countries" (Sexton 2010).
So in essence the larger the Company the greater the environmental responsibility to the nation in which it operates. In the UK Coca Cola and Britvic are the leading suppliers of soft drinks and as such consumable wastes. If we are to safeguard the environment it is vital that we start to make some significant changes and make them now!
Relevant Commercial and Political considerations
Coca Cola Corporation is already making environmental responsible decisions and the United States is a good example where they have introduced community recycling programs "The Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program supports local community recycling programs by providing bins to selected grant recipients for the collection of beverage container recyclables in public settings. Grants will be provided to a limited number of applicants who can demonstrate how their proposals will lead to sustainable recycling opportunities." (Coca Cola 2010).
These policies now need to be reflected in assisting the UK environmental concerns. Our proposal for bottle deposit is not a new one and this has already been implemented with success in a number of States in America "Nine states have adopted laws mandating that soft drinks, beer and other carbonated beverages carry a refundable deposit. The last such law was passed in New York in 1982. A tenth state, California has a related law establishing a redemption value on carbonated beverage containers. Most of these laws were passed in the 1970s in response to concerns about litter from discarded beverage containers." (Container Recycling Institute 2009).
The following risk factors have been identified in the 'Refundable Deposit' option program for subsequent adoption:
Risk Factor Impact Trend Mitigation Action
Too expensive to implement Med S Streamline or reduce process
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Customers reject scheme High D Incentives added
Recycling costs too high High I Streamline or change process
Resource intensive High I Increased automation
Money Handling Med S Increased automation
Lack of media support Med D Modify approach
I=Increasing Trend S= Stable Trend D= Decreasing Trend | over time
Media Questions | An appropriate set of anticipated media questions will be compiled and these will be handled by an appointed Media Relations Manager. The questions will cover potential areas of sensitivity to the organization, political areas of sensitivity, areas of clarification on the company and its policy to the environment. This will be an opportunity to showcase the environmental responsibility of the firm, not just in the UK but throughout the firm's global operations. This is the case for winning friends and influencing people. In the wake of other large company disasters like that of BP and Exxon this is our opportunity to shine in the eyes of the Public and Government agencies. Solid responses in this area will prove a tremendous advantage to the marketing and selling campaign of Coca Cola.
Handling Media | The intention will be to hold a series of informative press conferences and seminars that demonstrate the proactive approach to helping reduce environmental waste and contributing to the recycling efforts in the UK. The Media Relations Manager will be a point to point contact throughout the introduction and implementation of the campaign. This will be supported by a massive advertising campaign showing the firms commitment to green policies, the environment and the future well-being for the people of Britain. We will also arrange a number of TV media presentations and be supporting this with the new Coca Cola Recycling logo printed on all our consumables.
The financial department will be producing a number of important financial statements in order to support the campaign, these include:
Cost / Benefit analysis;
Projected Expenditure models
Cost of Recycling Program
Return on Investment Analysis
It is also considered that in addition to the hard costs (expenditures) there will be a large number of intangible benefits. For example increases in sales due to people wanting to be a part of the 'green revolution'. Improved media relations as we are seen to be an environmentally friendly and socially aware company. Retailers moving towards our product as the customers push them towards produce where they will get a monetary return on the sale of cans and bottles. Finance will identify these intangible benefits and place forecasted projections on the monetary benefits to the organization.
The firm will produce a statement that endorses the social responsibility of the Company and produce a catch line that will be introduced to all media material. This includes UK Websites, Advertising campaign, Communication bulletins, Media Meetings etc. In addition a new ecofriendly logo will be produced incorporating the recycling logo and this will be printed on all of the products that attract a refund for subsequent return and recycling of the product. A bar code will be introduced to all cans and bottles that can be quickly scanned and linked to the refund policy when the product is returned for recycling.
POLITICAL MARKETING STRATEGY
A set of political guidelines will be produced for all departments including the Executive illustrating the political ramifications of the proposal. In essence these are mainly positive in terms of wide support is expected for environmentally friendly production in the UK. These are in line with UK government environmental operating guidelines and align to other initiatives being taken by the Government. This includes the massive Dagenham recycling plant and the firm's position in helping to support other eco-friendly initiatives in the UK. We can point to our success in the United States and how the firm will transfer knowledge to support this and similar schemes in the UK that will fall in line with European Guidelines and help promote the UK as a leader in pioneering these initiatives.
SALES AND MARKETING
Sales | "Bottle bills (Deposit Systems) are a proven, sustainable method of acquiring used beverage bottles and cans for recycling. The refund (deposit) value of the container provides a monetary incentive to return the container for recycling." (Grey 2009)
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It is considered that Sales will increase as part of the recycling initiative. Polls in the UK have indicated that 80% of the public support the introduction of this scheme. The Government has historically dragged its heels in support of this initiative, thus favouring the simpler and easier land fill options. As such the UK Government is under increased pressure from Europe to adopt more eco sensible policies. This together with public opinion makes the timing right for Coca Cola to formally support and adopt this initiative. "Ministers are looking at increasing recycling facilities at sports grounds, shopping centres, beaches and cinemas and plans to bring back "deposit and return" schemes, where shoppers get money back if they bring back empty bottles, are also being considered. These could include "reverse vending machines", where a people feeds the empty bottle or container into a machine in return for a financial reward. (Press Association 2008).
Marketing | There is an opportunity to take advantage of our competition who have so far not adopted recycling practices. The concept of making them 'the bad guys' will help in our marketing position as a socially responsible and ethical company that is concerned about the country and environment that we are operating in. In addition to the UK we would be viewed by Europe as a leader in sustainability and this will increase the requirement of our product in those countries that equally want to be a part of the green initiative. Scotland are already forging ahead and are a big consumer of soft drinks. The Scottish Environment Secretary was recently quoted as saying "Mr Lochhead said: "The Scottish Government is committed to achieving a recycling rate of 70% and cutting municipal waste sent to landfill to 5% by 2025. The time is now right for a major push towards making these targets a reality to help limit the effects of climate change" (BBC NEWS 2008).
REFLECTION ON CONSEQUENCES
It is considered that the consequences for the Company are likely to be more severe in the future, assuming they fail to adopt this plan. Failing adoption of this plan some other form of recycling scheme needs to be adopted. Failure to comply will ultimately result in condemnation from both the European Parliament and the UK Government. The firm cannot in the future appear as a major historic contributor to world pollution. The time to act is now!