Digital Transformation: How PepsiCo wants to combine innovation and sustainability

Sustainability is certainly not the first thing you think of when you open a can of soda. But Athena Kaniura, PepsiCo’s director of strategy and transformation, says a commitment to making a positive impact on the environment is now at the heart of her company’s approach.

Whether it’s using AI to prevent water leaks in factories, developing biothermoplastics to showcase products, or using data platforms for regulatory compliance, PepsiCo says it’s working hard to ensure that the products it sells are produced and delivered in the most sustainable way. possible.

“It’s about how we can create a positive environment, whether it’s for the food chain, for the customers we serve, or for the people who make and buy our products,” she says.

Innovation is a team sport

PepsiCo’s sustainability efforts are known as pep+ (PepsiCo Positive), which Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta called “the future of the company” and a fundamental transformation of what the company does and how it does it. According to Ms. Kaniura, technology plays a key role in helping the company make these changes.

  • The first transformation concerns the products created by the company, whether they are soda cans or bags of chips.

  • Another focus is on packaging and the transition from plastic to biodegradable materials.
  • Finally, significant efforts are being made in the field of agriculture.

PepsiCo employs approximately 250,000 people worldwide and develops a range of proprietary data-driven technologies, including those for environmental, social and governance (ESG) compliance. However, the company also recognizes that innovation is a team sport and works with external organizations to develop innovative solutions to intractable sustainability challenges.


Athena Kaniura says sustainability is an integral part of PepsiCo. Image: PepsiCo

Water leak prevention, failure detection and production of bio-based thermoplastics

“We have different partners for different projects,” Athena Kaniura explains. “We solve every single problem with a tech start-up or an established company.”

Startup work is led by David Schwartz, Vice President of PepsiCo Labs, Kaniura’s team of specialists responsible for driving innovation. So far, the lab has worked with over 30 start-ups in over 200 countries. In addition, he is working on a series of products that will help PepsiCo achieve its sustainability goals.

  • Examples include a partnership with tech company WINT, which uses artificial intelligence to prevent water leaks at PepsiCo factories. It is estimated that the system can reduce annual water consumption by 25%.

  • In Turkey, PepsiCo is working with Pulse Industrial and BrenPower to monitor and detect steam trap failures at the company’s plants using an AI system.
  • PepsiCo is also working with UBQ Materials to convert unsorted household waste, including organic matter and non-recyclable plastic, into a bio-based thermoplastic that can be used for product display.

According to Mr. Schwatz, the goal is to bring these innovations into the company in order to achieve positive results for the environment in the most efficient way. “We are a big company with a big infrastructure,” he says. “We want to make sure the solution integrates seamlessly with the PepsiCo system.”

Ensure that ESG factors are considered in investment analysis and business decisions.

In all of these pioneering areas, Mr. Kaniura stresses the need to consider ESG factors in all investment analyzes and business decisions. PepsiCo is already reporting ESG metrics in “hundreds and hundreds of key performance indicators,” says Ms Kaniura.

The company has created a special database aimed at creating a consolidated platform for the information stored in it, which is a radical departure from what sometimes happens in other large companies, she said. “Data is traditionally stored everywhere — it may be in spreadsheets, some may be stored in the fleet department, for some it may be stored in another system at the farm team or plant, and some may be stored on a large platform,” she says.

“If we have a single sustainability database, it’s very easy to align key performance indicators. It is becoming much easier to integrate sustainability as a key factor and dimension in every one of our programs.”

“If you don’t integrate key sustainability indicators at every step of the process, you will never be able to make a difference.”

Mr. Kaniura gives an example: the company engages in comprehensive business planning, in which it decides on its goals for the next three years. One of these decisions could be a product launch that will only be successful if the company can accommodate all sustainability changes as part of the launch process.

“If you don’t implement KPIs at every step of the way at PepsiCo, you’ll never make a difference,” she says.

Now the goal, according to Ms. Kaniura, is to continue to improve the approach and ensure that the technology systems provided by her team, whether they are custom-designed or created in collaboration with external innovators, easily fit sustainability at the core of every business. solution.

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