PepsiCo is a high scoring ESG company that trumpets its sustainability plans and actions. It wants an ever-larger crowd of ESG investors to buy in and drive up its stock price so its execs can get rich. It also wants consumers to buy ever more of its products without guilt. Beyoncé agreed for $50 Million to become the face of Pepsi.
That brilliant branding continues. PepsiCo was a lead corporate sponsor last month at Climate Week NYC 2022. It populated the conference with well-intentioned young executives insisting that PepsiCo is a sustainability leader. The company’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Jim Andrew, described PepsiCo as more of a food company than a beverage company and talked about helping farmers develop regenerative agriculture techniques and cut water usage. He also affirmed PepsiCo’s commitment to using more recycled plastic.
Here's the reality:
PepsiCo is a global leader in plastic pollution. Each year PepsiCo sells about 60 billion plastic bottles, making it the second most prevalent waste product found in annual sea water and beach clean ups in 45 countries. Studies indicate Pepsi is responsible for 10% of all global plastic pollution. Pepsi says it hopes to reduce waste but it isn’t promising much once its plastic bottles leave the store. It sells upwards of 30% of its plastic into countries like the Philippines and India, where a high percentage of the trash runs down rivers into the ocean.
It's a leader in CO2 emissions and toxic air pollution. PepsiCo uses 2.3 billion tons of plastic each year for its bottles and packaging. Its virgin plastic is made with crude oil and natural gas at petrochemical plants that spew toxic pollutants on nearby communities. These plants produce as much CO2 as two large coal electrical generating plants. Pepsi’s products are shipped all over the world with diesel trucks but Pepsi lays those massive emissions off on “independent bottlers and distributors”.
It's a leader in causing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and premature death. The products are listed on the back of each executive’s business card: Pepsi, Lays, Quaker, Gatorade, Diet Pepsi, Tostitos, SodaStream, Doritos, Aquafina, Sierra Mist, Fritos, Cheetos, Mtn Dew, and Ruffles. With exceptions, PepsiCo’s products don’t qualify as nutritional “food”; they are highly processed products to deliver sugar, salt, fat and chemicals into the human body. Most consumers have no idea the damage Pepsi is doing. Why? From 2011 to 2015, Pepsi and Coke sponsored 96 national health groups, including the American Diabetes Association. PepsiCo has successfully lobbied against 29 public health bills designed to lower soda consumption through soda taxes and nutrition education. It has systematically opposed more stringent recycling laws. Pepsi has also made sure you’ll have a tough time finding anything negative about the company in the media or through a Google search.
The sponsors and promoters of pro-climate conferences should shut these companies out of their conferences and recognize them for what they are: expert greenwashers. And yet, just this week, the organizers of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Egypt announced Coca-Cola as a lead sponsor.
Eventually, governments will start penalizing PepsiCo and other companies for the damage their products do, much like the tobacco companies had to face their day of reckoning. The ESG rating firms should reevaluate Pepsi’s ESG standing. And here’s a TCC tip: eliminate PepsiCo and Coca Cola products from your daily lives. And please pass this along.