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Restoring nature is possible — but we must work together

Restoring nature is possible — but we must work together

by host

This week marks yet another busy week on the sustainability circuit here in Brussels. At Politico’s Sustainable Future Week, businesses and lawmakers exchange views and ideas for a sustainable future.

This year, as a main sponsor of the event, Coca-Cola in Europe will highlight the importance of multistakeholder partnerships that can scale up solutions. Collective action is needed to deliver long-term positive impacts for nature restoration and the protection of essential ecosystems — and across the wider, interconnected sustainability agenda. 

Together with longstanding Coca-Cola Europe partner, global conservation organization WWF-Central Eastern Europe (WWF CEE), we’ll share the outcomes and learnings of our eight-year partnership to conserve and restore vital wetlands, floodplains and ecosystems along the Danube River. We want to demonstrate that reversing the effects of species and ecosystem loss and re-enriching the tapestry of nature through conservation and restoration is possible when we come together. And we want to inspire others to join us. An aligned understanding of the critical need for water stewardship is at the heart of our partnership.

We need to not only conserve, but where possible restore ecosystems and biodiversity, including rivers and wetlands .

WWF-CEE firmly believes that conservation of life on earth is possible if we protect the most exceptional and fundamental ecosystems and habitats, and that we need to work with nature rather than against it to address these challenges. We need to not only conserve, but where possible restore ecosystems and biodiversity, including rivers and wetlands .

The world is experiencing increased water scarcity with demands for safe, usable water exceeding supply in certain areas.

Water is also a priority for The Coca‑Cola Company because it is essential to life, the communities we operate in, and, of course, to our business. The world is experiencing increased water scarcity with demands for safe, usable water exceeding supply in certain areas. With operations nearly everywhere in the world, we have a responsibility to accelerate our efforts to help address water stress, protect local and shared water resources and help build community climate resilience.

Driven by this common agenda, in 2014, WWF-CEE, partnered with The Coca-Cola Foundation and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River to support and promote river and wetland restoration across the Danube basin. For decades, in Europe, wetlands have been drained and rivers straightened and cut off from their floodplains. As a result, less water is held in the landscape and populations of fish and other species have plummeted

Niels Hougaard for Coca-Cola Europe

Together, we leveraged The Coca-Cola Foundation’s funding to raise a total of nearly €20 million, mostly from EU sources, in support of the Living Danube Partnership. We then partnered with dozens of local communities, authorities and stakeholders and according to the WWF, The Living Danube Partnership by 2021, replenished a volume of approximately 13.45 million cubic meters, and restored over 5,462 hectares of vital wetlands, rivers and floodplains.

Today, biodiversity loss in those areas has been reversed. Plant species have returned and, together with them, so have insects, birds and other wildlife, many of which had not been seen for many decades in these areas. Local communities can now enjoy the surrounding nature for recreation. Importantly, through this partnership, we have demonstrated that we can make a difference in a relatively short amount of time through collective action.

Key ingredients for these successful outcomes include the long-term commitment from the partners involved and extensive engagement with local communities, rather than seeing stakeholder engagement as a tactical tick-box exercise. We have been able to build on the core strengths of each partner and leverage the unique expertise available, from WWF as well as from Coca-Cola’s bottling partners in the region.

We are particularly proud of the program’s achievements in building trust and support with local communities by engaging them early on and inviting them to experience the daily life impacts of nature restoration. This is an important insight to counter some of the skepticism surrounding nature restoration efforts and their potential to deliver positive impact. Take a virtual tour to see some of the initiatives and projects we have been working on together as part of the Living Danube Partnership.

Now is a critical time to expand this partnership and bring other stakeholders in to scale up collective action, commensurate with the pressing challenges caused by nature degradation, biodiversity loss and the freshwater crisis.  Over the coming months, we will actively engage other companies, government agencies, experts and stakeholders to join our efforts for a living Danube.  

Niels Hougaard for Coca-Cola Europe

To accelerate collective action, we need governments and the EU Commission to put in place enabling policy frameworks. WWF has been calling for ambitious EU nature restoration legislation, and Coca-Cola took the lead among a coalition of businesses to support this call for concrete and effective action to reverse the biodiversity crisis. Together, in light of the upcoming EU elections, we advocate for the importance of nature-based solutions to help address the interlinked challenges of climate change, biodiversity and water stewardship.

This partnership has shown what is possible when companies and conservationists work together on a long-term strategy to tackle our growing freshwater and nature challenges. As WWF says: Together possible. And The Coca-Cola Company adds: for a better shared future.

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