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by Aman Singh Das | March 28, 2011


The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for food and beverage giant PepsiCo. First news hit the markets that for the first time—ever—Diet Coke had overtaken PepsiCo as the second-most popular soft drink in the country behind Coca-Cola.

Right on the footsteps of this news that had the media—and bloggers—in a tizzy over whether PepsiCo's Refresh Project is hurting their sales, the company announced the second phase of its women entrepreneurship program in partnership with international nonprofit Trestle Group Foundation, where senior leaders team up with women in emerging economies to provide them with mentoring, coaching, and other business development support.

It was perfect timing to connect with Chief Personnel Officer Cynthia Trudell.

Some of the questions on my mind: How does PepsiCo define CSR, what does Performance with Purpose mean for talent attraction and retention, and was the company reanalyzing its very bold Refresh project—which shifted advertisement dollars from Super Bowl ads to funding local crowd-sourced social enterprise projects?

Defining CSR

For PepsiCo, Performance with Purpose is CSR. I don't think I've ever seen a mission rolled out as fast and well-received as quickly by our employees as I have with "Performance with Purpose."

We are a company that obviously wants to sustain our growth and be profitable, but also understand that we have to give back to our communities. We see performance with purpose as a win-win solution, not only for our shareholders, but also for the communities in which we do business—particularly emerging markets where we realize that we have to be part of the growth equation.

Does PepsiCo have a Separate CSR Department?

I don't lead that, but I certainly support it.

From a talent perspective, it became evident about three years ago that we needed to reinforce our ability to have breakthrough innovations in the nutrition space. After three years of preparation and countless meetings, we formed a global nutrition group, which serves as our innovation engine for nutrition. This meant putting a lot of different perspectives in place.

And this is where Performance with Purpose enabled us to come together and really understand how we could broaden the company's impact in communities we already did business in but not necessarily had two-way relationships with.


Is Performance with Purpose = CSR for PepsiCo?

I think for the average person on the street, if you described [CSR] they'd say what is that? But if you said "Performance with Purpose," there will be instant psychological brand identification.

So, yes they are synonymous.

And I'll tell you, I've never seen anything stick as fast as this did across the company. And it really helped us through the tough times, especially the recent economic recession. It's helped everyone remember that they serve a bigger mission and be able to think of the future in a positive way.

How Does Performance with Purpose Translate Internally?

One of our three pillars under performance with purpose is human sustainability, which describes our quest to provide wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages for our consumers around the globe.

Now, right off the bat, that means we need talent to achieve that mission, especially women who can understand the right balance of what makes a marketing portfolio as well as how we bring the message to our consumers.

While our second pillar, environment, is also a huge part of our business, I am most passionate about talent sustainability. We think about talent sustainability in three major arenas:

1. Culture

In terms of culture, we are an organization that for many years has been devoted to diversity and inclusion and that goes beyond gender to ethnic background, thinking and engagement styles, and the environment.

PepsiCo would be an incomplete equation if we didn't have women throughout our hierarchy, both on our front line and in management. But what also goes hand in hand is providing an environment and a development route for them to be able to rise to high levels in the company.

Our CEO is a female, I am the head of HR, and throughout our ranks we have women taking care of research and development, to finance to marketing, to the various levels within human resources, operations as well as the general management level.

2. Career

Initiatives like our current partnership with Trestle Group [The nonprofit group helps identify qualified women entrepreneurs in emerging economies and partners them with PepsiCo management who help them build skills, strategies, practices and networks needed to overcome barriers to growth, and further develop the entrepreneur's business]* helps us achieve our second goal: Career development.

We have learned from our diversity and inclusion efforts that we need to mass-customize our development efforts as they relate to men and women, and work to identify that which isn't common, but that which is different.

One of the observations that we've made over the years from our work with Trestle is that women aren't always the best at mentoring and sponsoring other women.

This program then helps us show the power of women mentoring women and over time sponsoring them to advance to higher levels of management. This is a personal passion for me. We have been advancing women throughout the company globally for a long time now and today women account for 30 percent of our management and executive ranks. And initiatives like this work perfectly in allowing women globally to learn from each other's challenges.

It's almost like a mini-globalization leadership development program—but a much more intense version. I'd like to expand the project throughout the company.

3. Community

Besides, within PepsiCo we know that we have to give back to the communities within which we do business for two reasons: This is our customer base, and our talent base.

Employee Engagement on CSR: Measuring Volunteerism

Oh yes, we track volunteerism by region. Early on we realized that it isn't enough to incentivize executives and managers on their business performance. So we started measuring people performance as well. Our reviews today are equally divided between business goals and team development objectives that can range from internal to external activities.

Much of our volunteerism is lead by our employee resource groups.

Recruitment: Do Job Candidates Care for CSR?

I will tell you, without even batting an eyelash, from very senior positions right down to entry level positions, they always ask: What else can we do in your company? And when I talk to them about Performance with Purpose—and they’ve read about it before they come in for an interview of course—they see the passion and enthusiasm in all of us and how we actually operationalize it. It is probably one of the best components of our recruiting conversations because they can see that it's not something we're just talking about—it's something we can show.

It's a very powerful recruiting tool.

Women Advancement: The Need for Active Career Sponsorship

Within the executive ranks, one talent pipeline is not only measured by the quality of the different people and their experiences, but also the gender mix.

It's important to have that at the very senior ranks. At PepsiCo, when you have a female CEO and a female head of HR, we know what it takes to get to those levels. We understand and encourage active sponsorship.


If these women don't have sponsorship, they won't advance. They have to have people who believe in them. Once they achieve a certain level of management, we also know they have to be supported. So whether male or female, that mindset is very much present. It is an expectation that our executives have a diverse talent pipeline.

Diversity Begins From the Top: The Role of a Female CEO

I think having a female CEO—we all know they're not in abundance—is a huge source of inspiration for us!

We have a brilliant strategist as our CEO who brings a holistic view of not only the business but also global perspectives to the company. She is a phenomenal global ambassador.

At the same time, we [CEO Indra Nooyi] both are mothers, wives, and executives. We understand—and through her leadership, helped others to understand—that you can't disconnect the professional and personal lives. And I am proud to say that she insists we look at both.

The Many Faces of Diversity: Turning the Radar on Male Inclusion

We have an employee resource group called the White Male Inclusion group—it is for this very express purpose.

A company would be naïve to think that the group in majority would not be somewhat confused at times or threatened if others began to become more concentrated in representation. And by forming this group, we have been able to talk frankly about some of these concerns. But what would be really delightful—I'm the executive for the women of color group in the U.S.—and we've now brought the two groups together is all that they can teach each other on workplace issues, career discussions, coaching, sponsorship, etc.

What started as two separate groups are starting to find a common agenda: That's been delightful to watch from an organizational strategy perspective. It's important to recognize and help people manage themselves across differences and varied viewpoints.

Do PepsiCo Employees Care For The Refresh Project?

The first thing was that it was a bold move.

Certainly it told people a different story. But from first-hand experience, about a year ago, we had a major town hall across the company on the Refresh Project. The sheer energy in the room, the singing and the dancing that was going on, the excitement that comes from knowing that we as an institution are bold enough to try something new, was palpable.

Because it is a huge risk but it made a bold declaration to our employees that we could make a difference. It really drove home that as a global company we could drive change at a local level. It was a powerful message.

*More on the Trestle Group Foundation: By sponsoring the Partnership Program, PepsiCo addresses numerous social and business challenges, while simultaneously reinforcing the company’s established business purposes, including talent sustainability, diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, executive coaching, leadership development, attraction and retention of talent, CSR, sustainability, and contributing to emerging economies. More information.


Filed Under: CSR