PepsiCo taps head of World Trade Organization for C-suite role

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Dive Brief:

  • PepsiCo appointed Roberto Azevedo, currently director-general of the World Trade Organization, as executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer starting Sept. 1, the company said in a statement.
  • The newly created role will bring PepsiCo’s public policy, government affairs and communications under one umbrella. Azevedo will focus on solidifying PepsiCo’s external engagement efforts with national and international governments, regulators, international organizations and non-governmental stakeholders. He also will help strengthen the company’s environmental, social and corporate governance and increase engagement at local and community levels, the snack and beverage giant said.
  • PepsiCo also appointed Jim Andrew as its chief sustainability officer, in addition to his current role as an executive vice president, starting Sept. 1. Andrew replaces Simon Lowden, who is retiring after 24 years with PepsiCo.

Dive Insight:

It’s hardly unheard of for politicians, government regulators or heads of major organizations to leave their positions in favor of a top role or board position at a large company. Most recently, former Food and Drug Administration Chief Scott Gottlieb took a board position at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. 

For PepsiCo, the global snack and beverage giant shrewdly attracted Azevedo, who will be responsible for a number of responsibilities at the company. His connections around the globe and experience overseeing the World Trade Organization, monitoring global trade rules among different countries, shows his ability to work on a broad scale.

Azevedo “brings valuable political skills and technical knowledge of the complex social, political, and regulatory environments impacting multinational corporations like PepsiCo,” Ramon Laguarta, PepsiCo’s CEO, who reportedly has known Azevedo for years, said in a statement. The close ties between the two executives could prove invaluable in helping PepsiCo achieve its list of goals.

In an interview with the Financial TimesAzevedo said he will help PepsiCo meet several targets from increasing workforce diversity to reducing plastic waste. “The company is committed to impactful changes and I’m really convinced I can help accelerate those changes,” he told the Financial Times.

The appointment of Azevedo, and Jim Andrew as chief sustainability officer, comes as the $189 billion company deals with changing consumer trends and preferences. Increasingly, shoppers are snacking more, curtailing sugar and sodium input and doing more eating on the go instead of sitting down for a meal. At the same time, businesses are under pressure to curtail food waste, adopt sustainable packaging and do more to help the environment.

Last September, PepsiCo vowed to reduce 35% of virgin plastic content across its beverage portfolio by 2025. The New York company said in January it will get all of its electricity in the U.S. from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, at some point in 2020. It also has said it will try out paper bottles, test aluminum Aquafina cans and exit a plastic lobbying group. 

As PepsiCo and other CPGs have found out recently, there is more to running a company than simply making products or reducing their environmental footprint. Companies are under pressure to diversity their executive ranks and boards. PepsiCo, for example, has pledged to add 250 black managers by 2025

With PepsiCo’s global reach and various consumer trends, governmental connections and environmental requirements impacting its business, the CPG giant will have its hands full beyond just creating the next soda, chip flavor or energy drink. It needs a nimble executive who can navigate a changing business landscape and Azevedo may be poised to do just that.

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