Who will take the Pepsi challenge?

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She calls her corporate philosophy “performance with purpose,” and she’s frank in admitting her company could do more to combat widespread obesity — which is rather interesting when you learn her employer is PepsiCo, known more for sugary soft drinks and snack foods than healthy living.

Indra Nooyi isn’t your typical Fortune 500 CEO. According to published profiles, she loves to sing karaoke, plays electric guitar and isn’t afraid to wear her sari to corporate board meetings.

In a 2007 company report, Nooyi shares this story: “When I was a child in India, my mother would ask my sister and me a simple but compelling question: ‘What would you do to change the world?’

“Today, I know my answer would be that I want to lead a company that is a force for good in the world.”

It’s not a warm fuzzy sentiment for Nooyi, who says the “performance with purpose” strategy simply means “we bring together what is good for business and good for the world.”

She talks about human sustainability, or helping people live healthier and live longer, and making a healthier food choice an easier choice; environmental sustainability, how PepsiCo works to protect and replenish the environment; and talent sustainability, how the company supports its employees.

Economic forces

Here’s why she is leading PepsiCo’s cultural change: Out of the world’s 100 most powerful economic entities, one-third are companies. Not countries, companies. PepsiCo, for example, has a market capital of $100 billion and operates in nearly 200 countries.

“We have a profound influence in society — we shape lifestyles, we shape behaviors,” Nooyi said last year in an interview with The Economic Times.

To Fortune magazine, she said, “If companies don’t do [responsible] things, who is going to?”

It’s a lofty plan that won’t be easy. What happens when “purpose” conflicts with “performance”? It’s a balance of consumer vs. investor, of short- vs. long-term.

Ag link

There’s a strong link between PepsiCo — which owns Tropicana (the largest orange juice company in the world) and Quaker Oats — and agriculture. Obviously, it buys a lot of ag products, but it’s also helping farmers in developing countries establish crops of chiles and tomatoes and citrus fruits, for example, and improve yields and harvesting methods.

In India, the company has established contract farming and created a 27-acre R&D farm for trials of new varieties, and PepsiCo is China’s largest private grower of potatoes.

Back to your farm

What if you took Pepsi’s performance with purpose challenge to heart on your own farm? What’s your purpose — what would you do to change the world? Then, how does your performance need to change to reflect that purpose?

Like a huge company, agriculture also has a profound influence in society. Can it use that influence to help tackle broader, societal issues? Can what you do on your farm make a difference?

Yes, it can.

What is good for your business can also be good for the world.

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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