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How to harness the power of 1 billion people to accelerate sustainable change

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Jane Wakely
Executive Vice-President, Chief Consumer and Marketing Officer; Chief Growth Officer, International Foods, PepsiCo
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • 97% of consumers report a desire to lead a sustainable lifestyle but only 13% are actually changing their habits.
  • A key change that is needed is bridging the value-action gap.
  • Companies have a huge role to play in getting consumers across the sustainability line.

There’s no question that the alarming state of climate change requires businesses to take action — and more companies are signing onto transformative sustainability commitments such as net-zero pledges, regenerative farming ambitions, and strategies to reduce waste or tackle packaging pollution. Part of our opportunity to accelerate our collective impact is to harness the power of the billions of consumers we serve — to enable consumer movements of change that allow our businesses to grow in sustainable ways now and into the future.

At PepsiCo, we have about 1 billion interactions with consumers every day and as an industry this reach is clearly multiplied. If we collectively tap into the power of our iconic brands, inventive marketers, disruptive creators and innovators, we can leverage our scale and reach to make an even more meaningful and measurable difference. We can help people to play a bigger role in shaping a more sustainable planet and exponentially amplify our impact.


How is the World Economic Forum promoting responsible models of consumption?

The Value-Action Gap

People overwhelmingly declare an interest in sustainability. Kantar research shows 97% of consumers report a desire to lead a sustainable lifestyle but only 13% are actually changing their habits. This disconnect is what we call the value-action gap — the difference between what people aspire to do as opposed to what they actually do.


There are three strategies that can help overcome the value-action gap:

Strategy #1: Drive transparency of claims and labelling

Transparency is essential to spark behavior change. Consumers want brands to make it easy to decide with confidence that their choices align with their values. On-pack labelling is as critical in sustainability as it has been in nutrition.

Collectively, we need to define and drive industry standards for transparency on eco-labelling – creating a system that helps consumers make sustainable choices. Research suggests that a smart eco-labelling system can be very effective when it is visible, simple to interpret and comparable across product categories. It’s up to us as industry leaders to collaborate to help consumers navigate this complex topic.

Strategy #2: Build disruptive new business models

Addressing the biggest planetary issues requires fundamental changes in our way of doing business — from developing innovative solutions on product and process to creating new business models end to end. And of course, it requires taking consumers onboard to adopt new solutions and further change behavior.

Let me give you an example with one of the most visible issues for which the beverages category is frequently associated with: plastic waste.

The whole beverages industry is working to reduce plastic waste. At PepsiCo we have driven multiple initiatives including increased investments in recycled PET (rPET) to reduce both virgin plastic and GHG footprint by fostering circularity in the plastics industry. To achieve our vision, we have also been investing in inspiring our consumers to recycle more, through initiatives like “Trash Talk” with the NFL (aimed to educating consumers to recycle) or through leveraging our partnership with the UEFA Champions League.

But in parallel to driving circularity of the current packaging, we are also re-imagining the beverages category of the future. SodaStream is a great example of disruption - beverages that can be made at home without the typical disposable packaging. This alternative can nudge consumer habits in a more sustainable direction by creating an entirely new consumer experience with significantly less waste. That experience is enhanced by an app that enables your experience to be seamless and personalized — while tracking the impact you make in reducing waste.

Together with consumers, we are working to avoid 200 billion plastic bottles by 2030. This is the kind of action where we urgently need to shift people’s behavior and make a positive impact.

Have you read?

Strategy #3: Create movements

Neuroscience principles show that feelings are processed faster than analytical thought. Technical claims about sustainability won’t connect with people on an emotional level. We need to win their hearts and inspire emotion to incite a movement.

Our collective challenge is to find the sweet spot where company- wide actions and brand values link in a way that is authentic to the brand and makes a true, measurable change for society. I believe in the creative power of marketeers to innovate and enable distinctive and memorable creative that wins the hearts of people while also driving accelerated impact and action.

Mars’ Sheba pet food brand is a great example. It has built the world’s largest coral reef restoration project with Hope Reef in Indonesia by involving consumers, customers, NGOs and governments in the action to make a meaningful and measurable difference on ocean biodiversity. Another good example is Tide’s mission to convince everyone to make the switch to washing in cold water. Tide brought together “cold” pop culture icons to convince fellow celebrities. Tide also called the NFL and asked 15 teams and their fans to wash in cold. As business leaders, we have proven that the reach we have with our audiences and the inherent excitement of our brands can galvanise change.

With these three strategies, we can enable consumers to bridge the value-action gap.

I’m looking forward to Davos 2023 and to connect and learn from my fellow marketers, innovators and business leaders on this topic. Let’s work together on this journey. Let's provide transparency and clarity for consumers. Let’s create new business models which help to step change our impact. Let’s partner and collaborate to create movements of action directly with consumers that drive more sustainable growth.

Let’s not accept that there has to be a value-action gap. Instead, let’s help people to live with integrity, bringing together both aspiration and action to create positive momentum for the planet and for our shared communities we serve.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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