Water as the New Oil: What Is the Beverage Industry Doing to Protect Our Resources?

Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff founded Honest Tea in 1998. In the recently released Mission in a Bottle, the co-founders tell -- in comic book form -- the story of building a successful mission-driven business. Goldman, now president and "TeaEO" of Honest Tea, joins Motley Fool CEO Tom Gardner to discuss sustainability, entrepreneurship, and what it means for a socially responsible, health-oriented business to be bought by Coca-Cola  (NYSE: KO  )  .

Protecting water resources is a big part of sustainability. In this video segment, Goldman discusses the improvements Honest Tea has made already, and what he sees as the company's most significant area of impact when it comes to water.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Audience member: Fantastic presentation. Thanks so much for being here; it's really enlightening.

Some people say that water is the new oil. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what Coca-Cola and you are doing to protect our water resources, and where you're going to get your water in the future.

Seth Goldman: It's actually a really fascinating thing to watch. First of all, you've got to decrease your water consumption. And I'll be honest, that plant we owned back in the day -- "I'll be honest" -- I guess I'm sorry for that!

That small plant that we owned, terrible water use. We would use basically three times as much water to make a bottle. Now the ratio people look for is 1.5 or less. There's been a lot of advances, and Coca-Cola and the big companies are much more sophisticated than we used to be.

But beyond that, what they're really doing that's interesting is they've developed these solar water filtration stations in the developing world. In Africa and in South America, a solar powered water system, of filtration.

You hear the stories about people having to walk miles to get to a water source. Being able to set up really in areas where a community can gather, and taking action there; that's an interesting step.

It's impressive technology. It was actually developed by Dean Kamen, the same person who did the Segway and the dialysis pump.

To me, when I think about Honest Tea, where is our biggest impact on water, it's around organic. The chemical pesticides and herbicides that are used to grow nonorganic ingredients, they don't go away. They get washed away, but they get washed into water. They get washed into food supplies. So, for me, organic is a really important part of addressing global water issues.


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  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 12:01 AM, ajaybhatla wrote:

    Solar water purification technology is, of course, a very relevant technology because it can make unsafe water safe, virtually anywhere while the sun shines. Deployment/distribution issues are huge, however, when this technology is made available literally everywhere for everyone - the need to purify enough water for individual consumption is the greatest in remote areas in the less-developed world.

    Putting "Water as the new oil" in the title was more than a bit misleading, mainly because the interview didn't address "why" this connotation may be true or not. There have certainly been many attempts from mostly people selling investments to use the tagline "water is the new oil" to prod investors to part with their money!

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