Former PepsiCo CEO lectures on her time in the industry
BY Staff Reporter
To a packed room of industry and business leaders, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, endorsed an emerging sentiment in the corporate sphere: a foundation of purpose in a profit-driven world.
On Wednesday, Nooyi came to Clayton Hall to discuss the rebranding of PepsiCo at the 2019 Corporate Governance Symposium. Nooyi is well-known in the corporate world for the pivot she led at PepsiCo, reorienting the company’s portfolio of assets toward what she saw as a trend of consumer behavior toward healthier options.
“What if we started off by saying: ‘Every child in the world is my child. what will we feed them?’” Nooyi said, offering a glimpse at her “performance with a purpose” strategy that was developed to resonate with the public and the shareholders. During her talk, she gave an overview of her development of a robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy within PepsiCo over her 12-year tenure as CEO.
University President Dennis Assanis introduced Nooyi as the distinguished speaker to over 350 attendees at the event, which included high-profile corporate leaders. John Pelesko, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, remarked that many of those in attendance could have been qualified to serve on the morning’s expert panel.
“She’s very open, and it’s very refreshing,” Laura Matlin, chief governance and compliance officer at Broadridge Financial Solutions, said.
Kicking off the fireside chat, Charles Elson, chair of corporate governance at the university, asked Nooyi about the meeting she had with the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, near the beginning of her tenure.
There were some pieces of advice from Jobs that she brought to her run at PepsiCo, mainly a prioritizing of design and a passionate focus on research and development. Focusing on these aspects, one of Nooyi’s main goals as CEO was to secure longevity for the company. She credited her success to an attention on the shifts in consumer behavior, which, for PepsiCo, meant a consumer that was becoming more health-conscious with their everyday purchases.
In response to consumer preferences, Nooyi led a reorganization that categorized PepsiCo’s assets into products that are “fun for you,” “better for you” and “good for you.” Under her leadership, PepsiCo acquired more health focused brands such as a $3.3 billion acquisition of Tropicana.
The prioritization of consumer health that characterized PepsiCo’s pivot led Nooyi to advocate for a policy of increased CSR.
“If you don’t have a moral compass that points due north, everything falls apart.” Nooyi said.
In a business landscape where CSR often takes a backseat to profitability, Nooyi urged that, to ensure longevity, traditional companies must think beyond the next quarter and engage in deep discussion on today’s investments in research, training and sustainability.
“Today’s landfill is your foundation tomorrow,” Nooyi said. “We get carried away with financeability and forget about responsibility.”