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Agriculture, engagement with female potato farmers central focus of PepsiCo’s sustainability approach

PepsiCo released its 2019 sustainability reportHelping to Build a More Sustainable Food System, just last week.

Nearly 80% of PepsiCo’s main crops – including potatoes, corn, oats and oranges – are sourced sustainably, up from 51% in 2018. The company has an advantage in that it buys directly from over 50% of its suppliers. This means that buyers know their farmers, which is not always the case for food companies, where agricultural supply chains can be convoluted and opaque.

According to an article written by Forbes contributor, Shayna Harris, nearly 80% of PepsiCo’s main crops – including potatoes, corn, oats and oranges – are sourced sustainably, up from 51% in 2018. The company has an advantage in that it buys directly from over 50% of its suppliers. This means that buyers know their farmers, which is not always the case for food companies, where agricultural supply chains can be convoluted and opaque.

Shayna Harris points out in her article about the sustainability report that PepsiCo spends $10 billion annually on 25 crops, which is why agriculture is central to its sustainability approach.

Potatoes that are sustainably produced
and used in PepsiCo’s Lays chips. | PEPSICO

One example of PepsiCo’s inclusion work centers around women in agriculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women account for nearly half of the rural workforce in agriculture in developing countries. Explicit inclusion of women in farming initiatives is good business for PepsiCo, according to Simon Lowden, Chief Sustainability Officer at PepsiCo.

For instance, the company has engaged with female potato farmers – who make up half of the rural potato workforce – to ensure that they receive benefits from PepsiCo’s buying practices, too. 

“It’s not rocket science that if women are providing around 50% of the labor but don’t get training, our business suffers. When women are trained and empowered, potatoes are more productive, the right size is produced, PepsiCo can purchase more of them, and money in the farmer’s pocketbook increases,” explains PepsiCo’s Director of Agriculture, Margaret Henry, an architect of the program.

According to Lowden, “We are proud of our female farmer base. We are doing important work in India with female farmers to focus on land rights and ownership, in partnership with USAID.”

Regarding gender and race, he says that the company wants to keep learning and leaning in.

Read the full report by Shayna Harris on the Forbes website here.
PepsiCo published an overview of its latest sustainability report here
Photo above: Subhra Mukherjee, a potato farmer who is part of the PepsiCo and USAID land rights / women’s empowerment program in the Aswinkota community of Bankura, West Bengal, India. | PEPSICO

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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