Freshwater and Polar Bears: How a Public-Private Partnership Can Change the World

At the turn of the century, the world faced a serious concern:  Of its water supply, about 2.5 percent was fresh water, and 30 percent of that groundwater — which billions of people depended on for drinking, sanitation and crop irrigation. Yet use of the all-important resource was frequently mismanaged and wasteful.

All of Coca-Cola’s products use water as the main ingredient, and the company made freshwater stewardship a priority. It was an interest shared by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the mission of which is nature conservation and the protection of natural resources for people and wildlife. In 2007, Coca-Cola committed an initial $20 million to WWF and the organizations formed a partnership.

Together, Coca-Cola and WWF raised $66 million for freshwater initiatives and broadened their reach to other projects, such as Arctic Home, a cause-marketing campaign to support places in the Arctic where polar bears and people may thrive.

The collaboration between the two organizations shows the potential of public-private partnerships to effect change. Coca-Cola and WWF had similar interests, and the partnership conditions were clear. They considered each other reputable and informed, and enjoyed trust at all levels of the organizations, thanks to the tone set by the partnership leaders and their teams.

Read more about the sustainable and successful public-private collaboration between the organizations in Allison Elias and Professor Emeritus E. Richard Brownlee II’s article “Coca-Cola, World Wildlife Fund Team Up for Water Conservation,” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series.


About the Faculty

E. Richard Brownlee II

When it comes to financial reports — read intently by both lenders and investors — Brownlee is the scholar with whom to consult. He is an authority of not only corporate financial reporting, but also of financial and managerial accounting — the keys to analyzing and understanding the health and... Learn More