Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day at PepsiCo Chicago. Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, will be touring the Chicago office, talking with associates and managers to observe the latest projects the PepsiCo team is working on. Of all departments, the Public Affairs team was quite busy preparing for her visit.
For me, it would be a great thrill to see her in person, considering she is on of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2008. She has taken the company to a plateau of responsibility that is rarely seen in Fortune 500 companies.
I’ve never been one to subscribe wholeheartedly to any particular company (except Apple maybe), but PepsiCo has a way of impressing me everyday. The motto “Performance with Purpose” is not just some catchy phrase casually tossed around the PepsiCo offices and plants, it is a mantra that is guides the company to heights of productivity and corporate accountability to be envied. Performance with Purpose focuses on three specific areas of sustainability: human, environmental and talent.
These are simple philosophies that, in a perfect world, would be second nature to more companies than just PepsiCo. Human sustainability refers to the products that PepsiCo sells – the foods, snacks and beverages that we consume every day. The “health phase” in the U.S. seemed to come and go, but the goal of responsible development and production of the foods we eat is a company standard. When PepsiCo aquired Naked Juice last year, it purchased one of the few all-natural, nothing-added juice producers in the world, and if you’ve tried Naked Juice, you were probably just as surprised as I was to realize that there was no added sugar. We can also look to Frito-Lay products as well. By the end of this year, every Frito-Lay product will be made with sunflower seed oil, reducing the amount of fat in every single chip at least by half. And staple products like Quaker Oatmeal have consistently proved the doubters wrong; tests continue to show that a steady diet of Quaker Oatmeal will reduce your cholesterol.
Environmental sustainability has provided even more amazing advances in terms of corporate responsibility. I will use Sun-Chips for this example. I am a firm believer in personal responsibility; I do not believe that people should be forced to buy certain products or forced to not use other products. The green focus that is sweeping the nation is quite impressive; I’ve seen more recycling and less waste than ever before, but many people feel that some green practices are too invasive. PepsiCo, however, has taken the trouble out of “going green.” When you purchase a bag of Sun-Chips and take that first crunchy bite, you are probably only concerned about the delicious snack that you are currently enjoying. You probably weren’t thinking about the Modesto plant where your chips were produced, which is off the power-grid and powered completely through the use of solar panels. Sun-Chips made with the power of the Sun; it’s almost too simple. And you, the consumer, can care or not, but by supporting PepsiCo you just helped the environment in the most delicious of ways. I’m so proud of you!
I could really delve into PepsiCo’s Talent Sustainability at the risk of bragging to you that they hired me, but it’s more than just the caliber of employee that PepsiCo employs. The incredible cross-section of the populace that works for PepsiCo really helps the entire PepsiCo team understand the needs and wants of consumers all across the world. The diversity of the employees at 555 W. Monroe is incredible. Everyone has a unique background at the company that further fosters the understanding of the consumer base that PepsiCo actually serves. I feel a little unique myself, considering that I’m yet to meet another Cajun in the building (even though I’m only half-Cajun, it still counts!) The programs in place for all employees allow us to track our progress through the company. Employees can see if they are on task for career goals and ambitions and can anticipate the potential for promotions. It must be working, because everyone I meet greets me with a smile and a handshake. These have got to be the happiest people on earth.
A simple motto “Performance with Purpose;” taking care of the consumer, the environment and the employee. In the aftermath of corporate breakdowns at the dawn of the decade, other companies need to follow PepsiCo’s lead. Corporate responsibility is the name of the game, and with a slowing economy, a health- and environmentally-conscious populace, and the growing need for resource responsibility, PepsiCo is in a league of its own, an industry leader meeting the call of an unpredictable future. By simply being responsible, PepsiCo has silenced the naysayers and set a standard for others to follow.
In closing, I have often debated the ethics behind corporate public relations. I fear that if a desperate situation were to arise, I would find myself as the person justifying your five-dollar-a-gallon gasoline. After working with PepsiCo, however, I’ve realized that if a company is acting responsibly then there is nothing to justify. My goal would be to make sure you knew about it.