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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - RIYADH — The modern food system, no doubt, has many challenges – from climate change and resource scarcity, to packaging waste and income inequality – and therefore, partnership and collaboration is more important than ever to address the issue, states Simon Lowden, Chief Sustainability Officer, PepsiCo, recently. He was one of the speakers in the two-day Misk Forum 2019 in Riyadh.
He said steering the food system towards sustainability is a big project that will take considerable efforts from multiple parties, and as a responsible industry leader, “we want to play an active part. The scale of transformation required can only be achieved when all stakeholders in the food system are working together, including industry, farmers and government.”
“So, partnership and collaboration is more important than ever. We are constantly engaging with other parties in our food system to find the solutions we all need,” he noted.
In an interview, he said PepsiCo aims to use its scale, reach and expertise for good — to enable a more sustainable food system, which can meet modern needs, without exceeding the natural boundaries of the planet.
He pointed out the six priority areas where PepsiCo believes it can have the most impact, and is working in partnership with its peers, governments, NGOs, and the communities where it operates. These include Next Generation Agriculture, Positive Water Impact, A Circular Future for Packaging, Improved Choices Across Our Portfolio, Climate Action and People & Prosperity.
Excerpts from the interview follow:
• In a fast-pace society where we live, amid still the great divide between the rich and the poor, what is your main message to the young leaders, creators and thinkers in how they should explore, experience and experiment with ways to meet the challenge of change and help build a more sustainable food system?
A more sustainable food system is driven by multiple partners and amidst the pressures of a growing global population, we believe education is the key to effect real, long-lasting change.
The global food system encompasses the ways the world produces, packages, distributes, consumes and disposes of food. The modern food system has been incredibly effective at making food safer, more affordable and allowing for greater access to affordable nutritious and enjoyable foods. But, there has been a cost to our natural environment.
As one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, PepsiCo has not only an opportunity but a responsibility to make the food system more sustainable.
• How deeply committed is PepsiCo to accelerating progress in the company’s sustainability agenda and broader vision of accelerated, a more sustainable food system?
PepsiCo is fully, comprehensively and publicly committed to a more sustainable food system and we’re making commitments and taking actions to achieve our goals.
We have openly shared our accelerated target of 2025, by which date we want 100 percent of our packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. In addition, we also want to use 25 percent recycled content in our plastic packaging and reduce 35 percent of virgin plastic content across our beverage brands by 2025.
Sustainably sourcing ingredients is another way we address this. Through the company’s Sustainable Farming Program, PepsiCo provides farmers globally with training and resources to help them on the path to greater productivity and sustainability across environmental, social and economic principles. Currently, the program reaches more than 40,000 farmers, and over half of PepsiCo’s directly-sourced ingredients (like potatoes, corn, oats and oranges) are sustainably sourced through this platform.
We are actively increasing the use of solar power and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, PepsiCo’s franchise manufacturing facility in Dubai features one of the largest private solar power plants in the UAE.
Our Snacks Facility in Dammam is LEED Gold Certified. We saved 28 million liters of water in our snack operations last year (2018) and this year (2019) we increased our recycling rate by 25% resulting in almost 85% of our total waste from the plants being reused.
• PepsiCo is named recently as one of the top three global plastic polluters along with Coca-Cola and Nestle for the second year in a row. What is your take on this? Does this report negatively affect your sustainability food program? What are you doing to significantly improve your status in terms of polluting the environment? Should the global community expect to see a concrete and positive approach to rectify the report?
As a large consumer product company, we recognize that we have a role to play in the way society makes, uses, and disposes of packaging. Everybody loses when plastic becomes waste, which is why we diligently set out targets and initiatives to advance our efforts to help create a world where plastic packaging never becomes waste. — SG
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