The Coca-Cola Company
Ulrike Sapiro directs The Coca-Cola Company’s sustainability strategies, programs and partnerships in Europe. In particular, she focuses on the Company’s water, agriculture and recycling initiatives. Ulrike has been a part of the Coca-Cola Company for almost 8 years. Outside of her work at Coca-Cola, Ulrike is the Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Program and is also active in the European Trade Organisation on food, soft drinks and packaging. For more than eight years, Ulrike has supported the Coca-Cola and World Wildlife Fund partnership teams on conservation efforts benefiting the Danube River, a freshwater basin of focus during the 2007-2012 phase of the global partnership. Building on progress achieved together, in June 2014, Coca-Cola and WWF launched a new, seven-year partnership to restore vital wetlands and floodplains in six countries along the Danube River. The partnership aims to restore about 53km2 of wetlands area creating a water storage capacity of 4,800 Olympic swimming pools.
What is your first memory of water?
From my early childhood, my parents have owned a forest hut in Germany, which has no mains water. So we had to carry drinking water in jerry cans for very restricted cooking and teeth-brushing purposes, or we used captured rainwater. I clearly remember dragging the 10 liter canisters uphill and we sometimes had to radically ration the rainwater use in summer because all the storage was used. This is still a strong reminder enough of how precious water was then and now I am giving this experience to my children.
Did you envision a career in water?
Not at all. My study choice followed my personal interest of history and politics and when I landed a role at a water supply company, it immediately felt like a natural fit because water is so deeply connected to history, politics (and policy) and also business.
Why is fresh water important to you?
Very simply: it is the stuff of life and a fundamental need for everybody and everything on Earth.
Why are cross-sector partnerships critical in addressing global water challenges?
The root causes and possible solutions to water issues are very diverse and since water is so essential to people, wildlife and the economy it is very hard, if not impossible, for one organization to make a meaningful difference alone. I truly believe different abilities and perspectives combined together through partnerships will get us to better solutions.
What impact will the Coca-Cola and WWF partnership have toward addressing global water challenges?
WWF is the leading global nature conservation organization with very high expertise and practical expertise on freshwater resources protection. Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world with a wide local production and distribution footprint in 200 countries worldwide. By combining the two partner’s expertise, scale and visibility, the Coca-Cola / WWF partnership can reach a new level of investment and awareness in critical river restoration work and water resource protection.