Coca-Cola Canada President addresses issues

Nicola Kettlitz sat down with the Journal to discuss the water bottle ban, Killer Coke and responsible leadership

Coke Canada President Nicola Kettlitz said the company is working to be water neutral by 2020.
Coke Canada President Nicola Kettlitz said the company is working to be water neutral by 2020.
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Nicola Kettlitz, president of Coca-Cola Canada, stopped by Dunning Hall on Saturday to speak at the School of Business’ annual Responsible Leadership Summit.

This year’s speakers also included Bruce Poon Tip, founder of travel company G Adventures, and Anil Gupta, founder of Honey Bee Network, an Indian company that supports and brings together innovators. Kettlitz, past general manager of the Torino and Vancouver Olympic Games, told the crowd that all companies need to become more sustainable to remain competitive. After his session, he sat down with the Journal for an interview.

How do you view your role as President at a major company like Coca-Cola (Canada)?

My role is to craft, help define, and help apply the overall company and brand vision to Canada. … The ‘business’ we talk about, or ‘corporations’ are some abstract entity. But at the end of the day, Coke, like another corporation, is made up of people, with personal aspirations and personal values. It is enabling those people. First, you have to select the right people, but most of all [it’s about] enabling them to excel. That is what the role is really about.

Since you are speaking here at the Responsible Leadership summit, what does Responsible Leadership mean to you?

At Coke, we are very clear that our business will not exist in the future unless we do our part in creating sustainable communities, sustainable environments … What you are doing enables the communities to be sustainable. This includes how we diminish our impact on water supply and packaging. We just have to look at what we are doing and what we should be doing. Sometimes we set targets. For example, we have a target to be water neutral by 2020.

Queen’s is attempting to become more environmentally friendly with initiatives like the water bottle ban, for example. What are your thoughts on this course of action?

First of all, [the water bottle ban] is a student choice, and that is fine and we need to respect it. I do think there are other solutions to the waste problem that comes from bottled water. Bottled water is not about replacing tap water or water fountains. Bottled water plays a role in convenience. The packaging, if properly managed, is not waste [since] it does not go into a landfill. If properly managed and recycled the materials that make up the packaging continues life on as a bowl, clothing, and furniture. It is a resource, a resource that comes from oil, which is not renewable.

How do you respond to allegations about Coca-Cola’s labour laws, specifically the International Killer Coke group’s claims that “Queen’s contract renewal is unethical,” according to a Journal article.

[International Killer Coke director] Mr. Rogers’ comments are not based in fact.  Coca-Cola is committed to compliance with local laws and all international labor standards.

The lawsuits he speaks to have been dismissed; independent assessments have found no evidence to support the allegations that bottler management conspired to intimidate or threaten trade unionists. The International Labour Organization, outside law firms and senior executives of Coca-Cola reaching the same conclusion, also has investigated these allegations.

These interviews have been edited for clarity and length. The final question was asked in a followup interview done via email.

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