Dear Coca Cola,
Congratulations on your PlantBottle™. You developed it in 2009, and it’s a fantastic step forward. We applaud the fact that it substitutes 30% of its fossil-based resources with sugarcane. We also applaud that you have licensed the technology to Ford for their interiors their Ford Fusion and Heinz for their ketchup bottles.
PlantBottle™ now accounts for 7% of your global packaging volume (30% in the USA). You have made 35 billion of them. By 2020 you want to convert all your PET bottles to PlantBottle™. It’s great news that you are developing a 100% plant-based bottle for the future.
It seems like a genuine move by you to a more sustainable future. It’s good business too, as you say yourselves: “The innovative PlantBottle Technology™ has resonated with consumers, helped boost sales, generated headlines, and earned sustainable and innovation awards.”
But we have one problem with all of this. And it’s the little ™ on the end of PlantBottle™.
Why do we have a problem with this? After all, you developed it, it’s your intellectual property and you have every right to be in control of who uses it. You are sharing it with other non-competitive companies. It’s your asset. It’s your brand.
Fleming famously didn’t patent Penicillin and others progressed the medicine for the benefit of all. What would the world be like if he’s kept hold of the patents?
Elon Musk made Tesla’s technology open source. He wrote in 2014 “patents… stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”
So Coke, it’s really great that you are developing more sustainable packaging. But if you REALLY BELIEVE in making the world a better place, why not take a page out of Tesla’s book? Make it open source, share it so that it can be improved and everyone has access to it. Make Coca Cola a leader in sustainable packaging. Infact, why not make the source of the bottles Fairtrade while you are at it? Or use sustainable energy sources to power production and look at getting it Cradle to cradle certified. Not just because it’s good PR or business, but because you believe Coke can make the world better and ‘Live in Perfect Harmony”.
Don’t be greenwash. Be The Real Thing™.