I am spending my summer working with the Public Affairs and Communication East Africa team to help research, develop and launch a PET recycling initiative for Kenya. Coming in with limited technical knowledge of recycling, I quickly immersed myself in research on the PET landscape and recycling initiatives in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa.  Taking lessons learned from other models within Coca-Cola we identified the PETCO model from South Africa as one that could be adapted to meet Kenya’s needs.  PETCO is an industry-led and managed recycling initiative to self-regulate and finance PET recycling.  The key factor to its success is that it is it brings together all actors along the PET value chain, thereby creating a scalable, sustainable recycling initiative.

Artwork at Coca-Cola’s Office in Nairobi.

Since this initiative relies on buy-in from other industry leaders and government actors, my co-workers and I began meeting with officials at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Kenya’s Association Manufacturers.  Ensuring these two partners were on board, was a first main step in moving forward with a recycling initiative.   With their welcomed support, we organized a working group, set action points and have put into motion the development of a recycling initiative. Now at the end of my internship it amazes me to look back and see how far this initiative has come, and how quickly everything moved once started.

Getting a tour of the bottling plant.

Coming from a non-profit background, I have been amazed to see how quickly Coca-Cola can drive initiatives forward.   As the largest beverage company in Kenya, Coca-Cola has the ability to mobilize other actors in a way that many non-profits are unable. Leveraging its market presence and reputation as a sustainability leader, the PAC team has already started to galvanize industry and some government support for the recycling initiative.  Coca-Cola’s sustainability frame work is called “Me, We, World” exemplifying the vision to grow their business while “enhancing people’s well-being, build strong communities, and protect the environment.” The Coca-Cola East Africa Franchise exemplifies this with their commitment to being a good Kenya citizen and having a positive impact in their communities.

Enjoying a nice Kenyan dish, Githeri.

During my two months, I had the opportunity to learn about other sustainability initiatives at Coca-Cola EAF.  The team, in close collaboration with the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, works on initiatives ranging from empowering female entrepreneurs with 5by20, to assisting in water scarce areas through RAIN. I well aware of these initiatives, along with others, prior to my internships, however I was surprised to find out how much the PAC team does. One example is the “Why the future is Kenya” a campaign bringing together business leaders to promote Kenya’s as an investment hub, highlighting their pro-business reforms, strong ICT infrastructure and rising domestic consumer market. The campaign, like many of Coca-Colas other initiatives, demonstrates their ability to convene industry leaders and government officials for social good.

Joined a launch of new 5by20 entrepreneurs.

This summer, I saw first-hand the impact private-sector can have when a company commits to the triple bottom line. Although unable to see this recycling project to fruition, since we are just at the beginning of a long process to finalize and launch the recycling initiative. I leave knowing that the PAC team has a strong model, motivated industry and government partners and the commitment drive this initiative forward. I look forward to staying in touch with the team and, hopefully, seeing the recycling initiative rolled out in Kenya.

Zebra spotting on a trip to Lake Naivasha.

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