ORLANDO, FLA. — Pepsico, Purchase, NY, has heard from consumers and is doing its part to take sustainability practices to the next level. Through its Pep+ (Pepsico Positive) program, the company is hoping to go beyond simply sustainable business practices by making sustainability a core part of every aspect of Pepsico’s operations.
“We have been no stranger to sustainability. Back in 2006 we started with sustainability practices, and of course we’ve continued to do so,” said Rachael Lawrence, senior director of sustainability for Pepsico. “Pep+ is an end-to-end transformation of our sustainability systems.”
At SNAC International’s trade show SNAXPO23, held in Orlando, Fla., March 19-21, Ms. Lawrence detailed the Pep+ program, launched in 2021, and the progress the company has made.
Pep+ aims to bring sustainability to every point of Pepsico’s business, from agriculture and ingredients supporting Pepsico’s products to manufacturing to consumer-facing finished products. Pep+ drives progress toward Pepsico’s sustainability goals through three key pillars that represent these points in the value chain: positive agriculture, positive value chain and positive choices.
Positive Agriculture represents Pepsico’s efforts to spread regenerative agriculture practices.
“Past farming practices would erode the soil, but regenerative agriculture practices ask, ‘How do we farm in a way that builds back the soil?’ ” Ms. Lawrence explained.
Pepsico has the opportunity to improve the Earth through its 7 million-acre agricultural footprint and improving the livelihoods of the more than 250,000 people within its agricultural supply chain.
In addition to regenerative agriculture, Pepsico also looks to supplier partners for sustainably sourced ingredients.
The Positive Value Chain is Pepsico’s approach to building a circular, inclusive economy. It encompasses goals such as achieving net-zero emissions by 2040, becoming net water positive by 2030, introducing more sustainable packaging and providing meaningful jobs.
Through its Positive Choices pillars, Pepsico develops food and beverage products that are better for both people and planet.
“For example, we’re looking into expanded offerings made with chickpeas, which are a good cover crop,” Ms. Lawrence said. “This makes them good for the planet while also providing good nutrition to people.”
Ms. Lawrence also went into depth about the company’s actions to reduce plastic waste through its packaging. Through a switch from bags to boxes for packaging its variety packs, Pepsico has been able to eliminate 14 million lbs of virgin plastic. But Ms. Lawrence was quick to point out the importance of collaboration with other companies and government entities to truly make a difference.
“We can change our packaging until we’re blue in the face, but until we can sort it and process it, the change only goes so far,” she said. “And if Pepsico is the only company that’s changing its packaging, we won’t see an impact. We have to work collectively for effective change.”
Pepsico is also planning to educate consumers on the agricultural impact it’s making through a new marketing campaign for its Lay’s potato chips. The company’s consumer research found that 42% of people don’t know that Lay’s Classic Potato Chips are made with real ingredients, including potatoes. And 34% don’t believe they come from a farm. Through its Golden Grows Here marketing campaign, Pepsico hopes to correct misinformed consumers that Lay’s potato chips are not only made with real ingredients but also potatoes grown in North America.
Pep+ culture is disseminated through internal green teams that take ownership of these initiatives, training on incorporating sustainability into business processes and innovation and digitization that enables improved decision-making.
“All of these things aim to help us live and breathe sustainability at every level of the organization, so it becomes our way of doing business,” Ms. Lawrence said. “But in order to be successful at creating sustainable change, we have to do this together, not just at Pepsico but as an industry.”