12/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Next Green Thing: "Water Neutrality"

The Next Green Thing: "Water Neutrality"

When Coca-Cola showed off its sustainability chops this summer at the Beijing Olympic Games, one of its pledges grabbed my attention: recognizing growing concerns about water around the globe (and in Beijing) and its own heavy water footprint, the company had the remarkable ambition

to return to communities and to nature an amount of water equivalent to what we use in all of our beverages and their production. This means reducing the amount of water used to produce our beverages, recycling water used for manufacturing processes so it can be returned safely to the environment, and replenishing water in communities and nature through locally relevant projects.

The pledge wasn't just a bid to protect one of Coke's biggest ingredients, but for mouths and minds in valuable and increasingly drought-plagued markets like China and India. Activists in Kala Dera, where Coke has been accused of depleting groundwater, may be skeptical, Time was impressed. Says Fortune, "No company is doing more than Coke to provide clean water to the world's poor (and not-so-poor) people."

But the term Coca-Cola is using for its goals -- "water neutrality" -- which was coined at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, and which Coke will be unveiling again in the next few days is, well, quite slippery. Last year, Coca-Cola admitted as much.