Updated on March 12, 2013
Hate ’em or love ’em, PepsiCo has a pretty involved and diverse portfolio when it comes to sustainability issues. Today I attended a discussion session at school where the Senior Director of Sustainability, David Walker, gave a group of us an overview of Pepsi’s sustainable endeavors.
When asked WHY PepsiCo is taking such steps to be a more sustainable and conservation minded company, Mr. Walker was quite honest – it makes economic sense and is financially beneficial to the company.
Some people sneer at that kind of mindset. But is that really all that bad? Is that to say that if it WEREN’T economically favorable for PepsiCo, or any other large corporation to be “green”, they wouldn’t? Well, who’s to know. Probably they wouldn’t have as much incentive to be so, but the fact is, and many more big corporations are learning this, is that being sustainably minded and making efforts to conserve resources DOES save money. It saves money and it generates money. It only requires some effort and creative thinking.
That’s the point. And lucky for Mother Earth, these two things work well together.
One interesting situation that Mr. Walker talked about was one of the risks of water consumption (at their manufacturing level). A few years ago in India, there was a drought in the area that one of their plants are located. The wells used to supply water were drilled very deep for big companies like PepsiCo and Coke (located in the same general area). The wells drilled for the residents of the area were much more shallow, so their water ran out first. Because of general discontent and bad PR, rumors spread that PepsiCo and Coke STOLE the water from the residents to support their processing during this time of drought.
Both the Pepsi and the Coke plant were shut down by the Indian government. Coke took the government to court, while Pepsi came up with a much more humanitarian solution. They drilled several more deep wells around their area, then ran simple piping (PVC) up the mountain to the towns without water, installing spigots every 100-150 yards. This not only provided the towns with the water that Pepsi was also using, but changed the lives of the locals, since they now did not have to trek down the mountain to get the water to hand carry back up in buckets. Pepsi was allowed to re-open their plant soon after (but they are still under very tight water restrictions during times of drought).
Pretty cool, huh? I would love a job where I can go to places like that and think of clever and simple solutions to serious problems.
Therefore, PepsiCo is alright in my book. Regardless of the underlying cause for their good deeds, the point is that the good deeds are being done, and these sustainable and humanitarian practices will become a routine part of the overall business model and objectives. By thinking creatively and positively, they solved their own problem and the problems of many other (and otherwise un-involved) people. These are steps in the evolution toward ingraining these kinds of actions and practices into our culture.
I definitely recommend going through PepsiCo’s Sustainability site. And yes, they are making efforts to move towards more nutritious foods- they have a section on this site dedicated to nutrition. PepsiCo might be making the world fat and diabetic, but at least they are starting to do it in an environmentally responsible way. Hey, it is your choice what you put in your mouth, right? If consumers demand more healthful foods with less processing and chemicals and sugar, these types of companies will listen… I guarantee that.