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PepsiCo AMESA: Pursuing a net zero future

PepsiCo AMESA: Pursuing a net zero future

From its long history of water stewardship to positive agriculture initiatives, Eugene Willemsen, CEO – PepsiCo Africa, Middle East and South Asia (AMESA), shares how the company is enabling sustainability and a green economic transformation across the region

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pepsico Amesa CEO

What has been your approach to championing sustainability in the AMESA region? Which area has been of utmost importance to you?
Delivering on our vision of ‘Winning with PepsiCo Positive (pep+)’ means becoming a more sustainable company by striving for a more sustainable food system. Sustainability doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it is a part of our DNA. The launch of pep+ last year, our end-to-end transformation strategy, guides what we do and how we do it to create growth and shared value with sustainability and human capital taking centre stage. As part of pep+, we drive action across three key pillars: Positive Agriculture, Positive Value Chain, and Positive Choices.

A crucial part of the pep+ ‘Positive Agriculture’ pillar is to spread regenerative practices for earth restoration across the land equal to our entire agricultural footprint, to enable our efforts to sustainably source key crops and ingredients, and to improve the livelihoods of people in our agricultural supply chain and our communities, with a heavy focus on economically empowering women by 2030 in this sphere.

So far, we have successfully adopted regenerative agricultural practices across 11,000 acres of land and have improved the livelihoods of more than 13,000 people in our agriculture supply chain. Since 2018, we have invested over $5.7m in our flagship ‘She Feeds the World’ programme which is reaching out to 880,000 farmers and their families. The programme, especially supporting women farmers, is improving economic resilience, food security and nutritional wellbeing.

In 2021, 67 per cent of our direct potatoes were sourced sustainably through over 40 demonstration farms in AMESA. Hundred per cent of the palm oil we sourced in 2021 is RSPO certified. Since 2018, PepsiCo Foundation has invested $5.5m in the AMESA region, distributing meals to over 30 million people. Programmes like the UN’s World Food Programme, Sub Saharan Africa’s Pioneer Foods School Breakfast Programme and other local initiatives are helping PepsiCo in AMESA close the gap in food insecurity.

We hear you are attending COP27. What are you most looking forward to?
The upcoming months are particularly exciting for AMESA with the COP27 being held in Egypt. Climate change impacts and its increasing vulnerability on food systems is felt even more in the African continent. I believe that the ‘Africa COP’ presents a golden opportunity for us as a region to champion the climate change agenda by sharing best practices and driving concrete action that extends beyond the COP. I am proud of our marquee regenerative agriculture initiatives as well as food and water security programmes in Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa that are transforming lives making them stronger, better, healthier, and empowered.

With our plans to mobilise sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship, we believe that COP27 will serve as a key moment to lift the region’s profile as a global leader in sustainability and green economic transformation.

Throwing light on the critical food-water-energy nexus, we understand that agriculture is the focal point of your sustainability efforts. What has been your approach to water and energy?
With our long history of water stewardship, we are  working towards making every drop of water go as far as possible. As a foods and beverages company, we are acutely aware of the critical role water plays in the food system and our ambition is to become ‘Net Water Positive’ by 2030. To achieve this, we have adopted an approach to watershed management that includes improving water-use efficiency across our value chain: on farms and in manufacturing facilities; replenishing water and improving the health of the local watersheds that are most at risk and where we operate; and increasing safe water access for communities that face water insecurity, including scarcity and unsafe water sources.

We strive to understand the water challenges at a local level, especially in high-water risk areas, and support collaborative solutions that address the specific needs of the watershed and the communities that depend on it.

So far, we have avoided the use of approximately five billion litres of water in 2021 compared to 2020 by changing the way farmers irrigate crops, focusing on at-risk locations and improving water-use efficiency.

Since 2021, PepsiCo AMESA estimates that it has improved water efficiency by a historic 50 per cent in company-owned high-water risk sites across the region (excluding Pioneer Foods facilities in Sub Saharan Africa). Additionally, it is estimated that in 2021, PepsiCo in AMESA has replenished 2.5 billion litres of water through community partnership projects in six high risk watershed areas through with science-based interventions. PepsiCo Foundation in AMESA has invested more than $8m in safe water access programmes, impacting about 27 million people’s daily lives since 2018.

On the energy front, we have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, one decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement. Our target aligns with the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’ pledge, which we signed in 2020, joining other leading companies committing to set science-based emissions reduction targets in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. PepsiCo AMESA has driven the climate agenda within its manufacturing operations by achieving 12 per cent energy use reduction in 2021 vis-à-vis 2015. Additionally, PepsiCo AMESA has installed solar panels on 17 manufacturing sites and signed MOUs with multiple partners for power purchase agreements (PPA) in different markets in 2021.

What about your efforts in creating a circular economy?
We are demonstrating circularity in the AMESA region by unlocking rPET in nine countries as well as by diverting over 107,000 tonnes of plastic and over 19,000 tonnes of multilayered plastic (MLP) films from the landfills of across seven countries.

Additionally, I’m proud of our first Lay’s RePlay pitch launched in South Africa’s Tembisa to drive the circular economy and provide support to disadvantaged communities. The pitch used more than three million chip packages to form the underlayer beneath the turf. Each field is created with a shock-absorbing layer, which is formed when reclaimed chip packs are converted into rubberised pellets. More than just a planet positive pitch, Lay’s RePlay placed a strong emphasis on including community members and local organisations throughout the planning, construction, and maintenance phases of each pitch, with the goal to develop programming that can address social issues impacting each community, while fostering safe access to the sport of football.

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