How Coca-Cola tackles thorny plastic footprint

Monday April 24 2023
Coca-Cola VP for Eastern and Central Africa region Deborah Mallowah

Coca-Cola Vice President for Eastern and Central Africa region Deborah Mallowah. PHOTO | VINCENT OWINO | NMG


The Coca-Cola Vice President for Eastern and Central Africa region Deborah Mallowah spoke to Vincent Owino on the need for long-term sustainability by addressing thorny plastic pollution issue.


Coca-Cola has been in the East Africa region for 80 years now. What challenges still affect the business environment here?

The areas of opportunity that can still be unlocked and make a difference include the ease of doing business. There is an opportunity for faster processing of licences; to manage a lot of the red tape in bureaucracy that’s in the way; and third, there is an opportunity around utility costs.

We are in constant engagement with government on ways to ease doing business thereby attracting more new investments and even increasing our engagement for those of us that are already here.

Further, our company has continually engaged with government to also provide a predictable tax environment.


Activists last year complained when Coca-Cola announced its sponsorship of COP-27, saying the company was not serious about sustainability. Is Coca-Cola making any effort to bolster sustainability in the region?

The Coca-Cola purpose is to refresh the world and make a difference and we actually are in the forefront of ensuring that and drive interventions that make a difference. We will not shy away from doing that.

We will continue Coca-Cola in Kenya has returnable glass bottles and that’s the heartland of our business. But where we have to use PET (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate — a type of plastic), we actually partner with Petco to deliver a circular economy and drive recycling of those plastics.

So, we create interventions in areas where we have to use Poly Ethylene Terephthalate, through such partnerships with Petco to drive collection of used bottles and therefore build a circular economy through that process.

Now that the Kenyan regulator raised the cost of electricity, are you looking for alternatives?

We are having conversations and understand the available alternatives. Coca-Cola always looks forward and ask what the best interventions are.

However, we constantly engage with government about the challenges facing businesses, not just ourselves, because this isn’t just about Coca-Cola and how we do it, but the impact it creates all around.

High utility costs undoubtedly have a huge impact to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. So, it is critical that we maintain consistent engagement with policymakers and all other stakeholders in the supply and production chain to address some of these issues.