We recently talked to Noora Singh, Director, Global Sustainability at PepsiCo, who won two Climate Leadership Awards in 2019 – for Organizational Leadership and Supply Chain Leadership. PepsiCo is one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, with a product portfolio that includes well-known brands such as Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo started a robust sustainability journey in 2006, and its agenda focuses on six overlapping priorities within our food system: agriculture, water, packaging, product, climate and people.

Read on for more on PepsiCo’s sustainability journey and what Noora predicts will define climate leadership in the future.

Tell us a little about how you came to apply for a Climate Leadership Award, and why?

We’ve had a pretty ambitious climate agenda since 2015, in fact we were one of the first organizations to set a science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target – an absolute target across our value chain. Climate change has been an integral part of our agenda as a business for a long time, so it made sense for us to showcase that focus and work by applying for a Climate Leadership Award.

What did it mean to PepsiCo to be recognized at the Climate Leadership Awards?

It really helped us to shine a spotlight on our climate work internally – and we could leverage the award to do even more. Even though everyone has heard of climate change, not everyone is entrenched in it every day – it’s just not as tangible. Receiving external recognition for our progress helped us communicate it internally and ratchet up our agenda and ambition even more. 

Tell me about PepsiCo’s climate agenda

We recently unveiled an ambitious new goal to cut carbon emissions by more than 40% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline) — which is more than double the previous goal. We’ve also set a goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, a full decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement. In 2020, we achieved our goal to source 100% renewable electricity for our operations in the U.S., and by the end of 2021, we expect about 15 countries in our direct operations will be fully sourcing renewable electricity. This means that more than 60% of all of the company’s direct global electricity needs will be met through renewable sources.

We know this is the right thing to do since climate touches every part of our business – and, as a food and beverage company, there are real consequences if we don’t address it. Managing the emissions in our own operations is important, but most of our emissions are in our supply chain – agriculture, packaging, transportation & distribution, franchise bottlers and co-manufacturers. We know we need to decarbonize our operations and our supply chain, so we are integrating climate change considerations and action into our business processes and long-term business strategy. 

We’re celebrating 10 years of Climate Leadership at the 2020 Climate Leadership Conference. What do you think the next 10 years of corporate climate leadership look like?

Having a science-based 1.5C aligned target is going to be table stakes, and increasingly companies are going to have net-zero targets as well. I anticipate there will be more and more pressure for products and brands to be climate and carbon neutral, and that more and more companies are going to integrate sustainability and climate leadership into their day-to-day management.

What are your top tips for organizations that are thinking about doing more on climate?

Start with an understanding of what your footprint looks like, and then articulate internally what types of activities you need to undertake to reduce your footprint. Overlay that with costs and opportunities so that you have a clear picture of where you need to focus and where you’ll get the biggest bang for the buck. This helps with business partners internally; if you can present the business case for climate action, beyond it being the right thing to do, you’ll likely get more traction. It’s also a good idea to identify the areas in which you need partners (such as suppliers, peers or customers) to make a difference.

What’s giving you hope right now?

Seeing the amount of interest in corporate sustainability and corporate climate ambition – the number of new goals and the raised ambition that we’re seeing being announced on an almost daily basis.  Something real is happening here, whether it’s companies looking to course correct or insert a sustainable angle into their growth agenda.  Our internal leadership also gives me a lot of hope – they are very interested in and focused on climate and sustainability, and they give the sustainability agenda the floor internally to highlight the work as well as the need to focus and keep working towards it.