In 2009, the Latin America Beverages business unit of PepsiCo, Inc. (PepsiCo LAB) and the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT) launched the Eco-Challenge–an annual competition whose goal is to engage youth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) by helping them create innovative business plans that address environmental sustainability challenges. Eco-Challenge’s main goals are to engage youth in sustainable development, to promote entrepreneurship and innovation by empowering youth, and to help PepsiCo find innovative solutions to environmental challenges in the region.
The foundational premise is that these young people, or millennials, must be viewed as more than merely another segment of food and beverage consumers; they must, in addition, be approached as future employees, business partners, entrepreneurs, government and NGO leaders, as well as global citizens.
From the very beginning, PepsiCo LAB and its partners realized that creating a productive and authentic engagement with young people is a complex challenge and would require an initiative consisting of a well- balanced portfolio of activities, carefully designed for a specific target group and selected areas of intervention. From PepsiCo LAB’s perspective, there are many challenges that need to be addressed, including aligning the initiative with Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo’s vision to deliver top-tier financial performance over the long term by integrating sustainability into its business strategy. Since Performance with Purpose was established in 2006 by PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, it has had broad internal and external impact, engaging employees around the world and strengthening the company’s relationship and reputation with communities and business partners. The connection between the initiative (specifically, winning projects) and PepsiCo’s business has been making Performance with Purpose less of an abstract concept and more of a solid base for successful and sustained business practices.
Additionally, PepsiCo LAB is considering how to best utilize the main lessons learned to further improve its core competencies and partnership models, strengthen its reputation, and share the experience within the company and externally. The lessons are not just beneficial for PepsiCo and its partners, but are also applicable and often transferable to many companies around the world, both within and outside of the food and beverage sector.