“Nobody’s going to remember you for delivering earnings to stockholders—they will remember you for the lasting impact you made on society.’’ That’s the credo that has guided PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi for the past 12 years as leader of the food and beverage corporation. As she steps down as CEO this fall (she will remain as chairman until 2019), Nooyi can point to a major accomplishment in directing the company’s shift away from salty and sugary foods and drinks toward more health-focused products while maintaining a strong bottom line.
On her watch, the maker and distributor of Mountain Dew, Gatorade, and Doritos expanded its portfolio into hummus, kombucha, coconut water, and other healthier, more nutritious foods and beverages. Meanwhile, the company recorded an 81 percent rise in annual revenue and a shareholder return of 162 percent during her tenure.
Maintaining a focus on the bottom line while managing a fundamental transformation of the company’s legacy DNA is a remarkable achievement. (As is her tenure—twice as long as the average S&P CEO, according to Eguilar.) Nooyi’s track record will be much studied for lessons to be used in similar seismic shifts that are roiling the food and beverage industry.
Focused as usual on the long view, Nooyi talked about recycling in a recent interview with Fortune.
“As CEO of a global company, I do a lot of traveling. Every time I go abroad, I meet new people, absorb different cultures, and gaze in awe at the beauty of our extraordinary planet.
But in too many places, I also see something else: an alarming amount of waste by the side of the road, piling up in our cities and polluting our oceans. It’s deeply troubling, all the more so because it’s altogether preventable. Something has to change, and we can start here at home.”
She succinctly sums up the problem:
“Over the past few years, recycling rates for aluminum and many common plastics have been falling in the United States. The result: 22 million tons of household recyclables are landfilled every year. In fact, studies show that almost 70% of all potentially recyclable plastic bottles in the United States end up in landfills, on the street, or in the ocean.”
For her proposed solutions, see the full interview here.
John Howell, Chief of Thought Leadership and Editorial Director, is a co-founder of 3BL Media, the parent company of Triple Pundit, begun in 2009. Howell oversees original editorial content procurement and creation. He is also the author of the weekly Brands Taking Stands Newsletter. He has written and edited for Elle, Artforum, High Times, the New York Times Magazine, and the LA Times. Howell is based in Wonalancet, NH.