PepsiCo’s sustainability focus: Is the company Performing with [“enough”] Purpose?

The world’s population is expected to grow by nearly 20% from 7.4B to 9B by 2050. This growth will substantially increase food production requirements with estimates that production will need to increase by as high as 70 percent to meet demand. […]



The world’s population is expected to grow by nearly 20% from 7.4B to 9B by 2050. This growth will substantially increase food production requirements with estimates that production will need to increase by as high as 70 percent to meet demand. [1] To hit this level of production, food and beverage industry will need to overcome operating with lower yields and increased production costs caused by climate change. Interestingly, the food and beverage industry is a key contributor to the phenomenon which stands to hurt their profitability in the long-run. The top 10 companies – including PepsiCo – emit 263.7 million tons per annum of GHGs which is the equivalent of being the 25th most polluting country in the world. [2]

PepsiCo is a large, multinational player in the industry. The company generated more than $63B in net revenue in 2015 with 22 brands like Frito-Lay, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker, and Tropicana. [3] Their brands are leaders in key categories (e.g., Gatorade, #1 sports drink, Quaker, the #1 hot cereal, Sabra, the #1 hummus) and are well-positioned for continued growth. Climate change poses detrimental risk to PepsiCo’s supply chain by limiting availability of key natural resources required for its product.

Supply and Demand Effects of Client Change

Agricultural raw materials from suppliers are the primary input for PepsiCo’s products and they are being impacted by climate change a few key ways. Firstly, agriculture uses a substantial portion of the world’s available freshwater supply and water availability is becoming increasingly limited. There is also an increasing prevalence of shocks to the systems like storms, floods, drought, and shifting pattern, which cause crop failures and supply disruption. [3] Some other issues caused by climate change which impact agriculture include changes in average temperature, rainfall, soil quality, and pest / diseases.

Climate change regulation also poses a threat to PepsiCo’s business model. Governments are seeking creative ways to reduce global warming. For example, San Francisco’s mayor recently banned water bottle purchases due to the amount of oil and carbon dioxide emissions required to produce the plastic bottles. This directly impacts the demand for PepsiCo’s products since it has Aquafina as part of its portfolio. Additionally, government regulation may directly impact operating costs when governments choose to tax or set limits for greenhouse gas emissions.

Performance with Purpose

Core to PepsiCo’s approach is its Performance with Purpose strategy, which the company describes as “our goal to deliver top-tier financial performance while creating sustainable growth in shareholder value.” [1] Moreover, according to Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, the “strategy is built on sustainable business practices that optimize our near-term operating efficiency and profitability while ensuring that we are well positioned to deliver long-term business growth.” [1] The strategy has three different focus areas (Product, Planet, and People) and over the past ten years since its launch has made significant progress towards reducing its contribution to climate change and has developed new technology to help suppliers increase their yield.

Notable operational improvements to reduce their carbon footprint include:
• Reduced water use per unit of production by 25.8%, exceeding their goal of 20%, and reduced costs by $80M over five years
• Provided access to safe water to 9 million people through PepsiCo foundation
• Improved energy efficiency by 18% and absolute GHG emissions by 4%
• Reduced packaging material. [1]

One example of PepsiCo’s contribution to the supply side is with the potato farmers in water-stressed UK. They developed i-crop technology with Cambridge University and employed different irrigation method to halve water use and cut GHG emissions by 50% since 2010. [1]

PepsiCo’s primary goals for 2025 as part of Performance with Purpose is to:
• Improve water-use efficiency by 15% among direct agricultural suppliers in high- water-risk sourcing areas
• Reduce absolute GHG emissions by at least 20% across value chain by 2030
• By 2020 only purchase HFC-Free Equipment in the U.S. [1]

This shift to focus on improving the efficiency of its supply side will significantly reduce PepsiCo’s exposure to climate change risk.

Plan Forward

Despite considerable focus on sustainability as part of its Performance with Purpose strategy, PepsiCo has come under scrutiny for its simultaneous funding of lobbying groups and politicians described as “climate deniers,” who oppose climate change regulation. [4] PepsiCo has the potential to be a true industry leader and should focus on ensuring that its corporate actions and messaging is consistent with the work its done on the sustainability front. According to Oxfam, “if each of the Big 10 companies made the same commitment to cut emissions from agriculture as PepsiCo UK, together they could save an extra 80 million tons of CO2e compared to business as-usual by 2020.” [2] Moreover, the company should critically examine whether the targets it has set for itself are aspirational and will protect its future profitability.

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[1] PepsiCo, Inc., “Performance with Purpose 2025 Agenda,”, accessed November 2016.
[2] “Standing on the sidelines: Why food and beverage companies must do more to tackle climate change,” Oxfam Briefing Paper, May 20, 2014, file:///Users/kamishahyde/Downloads/bp186-standing-sidelines-big10-climate-emissions-200514-en.pdf, accessed November 2016.
[3] PepsiCo, Inc., “2015 Annual Report,”, accessed November 2016.
[4] Richard Valdmanis and Grant Smith, “U.S. companies tout climate policies, fund climate skeptics,” Thomson Reuters, September 6, 2016,, accessed November 2016.



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Student comments on PepsiCo’s sustainability focus: Is the company Performing with [“enough”] Purpose?

  1. Interesting article! What it find intriguing about the large multi-nationals (including PepsiCo) who, as you have pointed out, depend on a large supply of natural resources for their products is whether their true motivation for strategies such as “Product, Planet, and People” is because they genuinely care (or must show they care for PR purposes because their customers care) or if the strategy is driven by a business need to ensure sustainability of their supply chains from a volume perspective. I suspect it’s a mixture of the two, and the true weighting between them is something only very senior execs will ever know…

  2. This is a really interesting and legitimate concern that you raise for PepsiCo. It was great to read about how they are leveraging technology to combat many of the issues they are facing as a result of climate change. Another area where they are making massive progress that wasn’t mentioned in your post is in water replenishment. Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are making substantial efforts to replenish all of the water they consume in the local communities where they are operating. Here is an article that talks about the progress both companies have made:

  3. What I find most interesting about this article is the fact that, even with all of PepsiCo’s initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, along with its recognition of the detrimental impacts of climate change, that they continue to fund lobbying groups described as “climate deniers”. What does this say about PepsiCo’s true motivations with their campaign for sustainability? Is it just a public relations gimmick?

    1. I completely agree with the point that you both are raising about the true impetus behind PepsiCo’s environmental initiatives. While the company has certainly made progress towards its “Performance with Purpose” strategy, it has also spend significant marketing dollars advertising its sustainability efforts. Additionally, when it comes to supporting actual government policies related to environmental control, PepsiCo has been silent. For example, in 2015 Pepsi took no position on the “Clean Power Plan”, which was proposed by the Obama administration, despite the fact that the company identified the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan as a top priority. [1] The question is: can PepsiCo continue to avoid taking a clear position and what is the cost of remaining silent?

      [1] Marc Gunther, “Why Corporate America is reluctant to take a stand on climate action”, The Guardian, April 2015,, accessed November 2016.

  4. Great blog post! Due to its size in not only the food industry, but among companies overall, PepsiCo is a pacesetter for corporate climate change measures whether it wants to be or not. As you mention, agricultural raw materials are PepsiCo’s primary inputs into its products. Farmers will be increasingly affected by climate change as time goes on, but PepsiCo doesn’t seem to be doing a great job supporting them. It appears CPG companies in general have not made as many strides as other industries to support its farmers. Check this website out: It allows the user to investigate the sustainability measures of many major companies including PepsiCo.

  5. This was a great read and it’s nice to learn that Pepsi is doing something to help combat climate change. After reading articles about beer companies and Coca-Cola, what I’d be interested in learning more about is what water usage ratio Pepsi is targeting. Both beer companies like MillerCoors [1] and their primary competitor, Coca-Cola [2] not only state the amount of water usage they want to reduce, but also the ratio of water to product needed.

    Also, with the amount of food products that PepsiCo is involved in, it would be interesting to learn more about what PepsiCo is doing to help farmers in general. Without a doubt climate change is affecting them as well and this is a major part of PepsiCo’s raw material requirements.

    [1] –
    [2] –

  6. Great post. Given the severity of the situation do you think PepsiCo should be the master of its own destiny with regards to climate change and corporate social responsibility? Or should governments impose a tax that covers the social cost of using the amount of resources that companies like PepsiCo do? There seems to be an imbalance in the cost to society between consumers that use water for services that are deemed to be a necessity vs those who consume large amounts of water for non-essential purposes.

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