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Climate change is ‘elephant in the room’ for leaders, says PepsiCo exec

Climate change is 'elephant in the room' for leaders, says PepsiCo exec


Many of the world’s most powerful leaders are just as worried about climate change as you are. 

The looming threat of global warming was “the elephant in the room” at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF), Robert Azevedo, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer of PepsiCo, said in an interview at Davos with Fortune Connect executive editor, Peter Vanaham. The theme of WEF this year was “cooperation in a fractured world.”

Azevodo said the issue was of particular importance and interest to him. “Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, climate change is part of the agenda,” he said. “For us, it’s critical. We’re a food company, so higher temperatures around the world means lower yields for the crops. Every one degree centigrade the Earth warms up, 10% of staple crops go out. It’s an urgent and important topic for survival of the business now.” 

The rapidly changing climate has long been on the minds of PepsiCo execs. “We are at a crossroads,” Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, wrote for Fortune in 2020. “The time for platitudes and promises is over. We must create a better planet for future generations, and business must be at the vanguard.” 

Alongside its competitor, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo has been ranked as the world’s leading plastic polluter for four consecutive years. In September 2021, PepsiCo pledged to halve its use of virgin plastic across its portfolio by 2030. And, through a new initiative called PepsiCo Positive, it will incorporate half-recycled content in all its plastic packaging and scale new business models that require little or no single-use packaging. ThePepsiCo Foundation, of which Azevedo serves as chairman of the board, has thrown its weight behind reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Addressing packaging waste is a global issue of paramount importance, and it will require systemic change,” Azevedo tells Fortune. Because there is no single way to achieve those ambitions, he added, the company is leaning on “a number” of strategies aimed at eliminating single-use plastics.

“Ultimately, our vision is to help create a world where packaging never becomes waste,” Azevedo said. “It’s the right thing to do for the planet, and the smart thing to do for our business.”

Climate takes the cake

Climate change was a hot topic at Davos this year. That might be because, a week prior to the conference, the National Oceanic and…

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