Meet the Sustainability Leader: Reporting and Communications – PepsiCo and MerchantCantos
With entries now open for edie's Sustainability Leaders Awards 2020, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2019 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winner of our Reporting and Communications award - PepsiCo and MerchantCantos.
PepsiCo is now 12 years into its Performance with Purpose strategy and the food and drink manufacturing giant has encapsulated how to make a deep and complex strategy appeal to a variety of different stakeholders in a digitalised era. In an attempt to engage an audience beyond specialist stakeholders, the company has transformed a traditional sustainability report into an engaging but robust and transparent offering that can be digested in numerous ways.
Following an audience review, PepsiCo, assisted by creative communications agency MerchantCantos, realised that the vast majority of its audience consumed reports digitally. In response, PepsiCo moved its report to a screen-first format, with landing pages and permanent top navigation that enable the report to be used and explored like a website.
The screen-first format takes three different types of readers into consideration; PepsiCo has outlined ‘paddlers’ who skim the content to cover key themes, ‘divers’ who delve deep into individual topics and ‘swimmers’ who use the entire report. In order to appeal to each audience, the report has been broken down via section overviews, dashboards, and pull-out stats for ‘paddlers’, while links to datasheets and A-Z topics are included for the ‘divers’. As for the ‘swimmers’, case studies, overviews and transparent data disclosures are included.
The pull-out data points are used to disclose performance but are also accompanied by trend arrows to indicate whether the data and performance are increasing or declining.
The performance dashboard has been dramatically simplified from more than 35 metrics across products, people and planet to seven material metrics, with the remainder moved to an easier to use data download. This condensed approach to reporting is evident in the actual size of the report, which has been shortened to just half the page count of the previous report with no loss in disclosure.
The condensed report still covers the most material issues identified by PepsiCo’s materiality reviews and has been structured into five key sections. These include a summary overview featuring a statement from the chief executive, before branching off into the Products, Planet and People topics. Each one is structured on an outside-in basis, starting with a top-level overview, then external stakeholder perspective, strategy, specific issues, specific programmes, followed by a case study. Finally, a governance section is attached, outlining results relating to ethics, supply chains and financial performance.
A separate data download is also a core part of the suite, providing easy access to performance data, including previous years’ data to review trends.
The food and beverage industry is subject to a variety of complex climate, social and economic megatrends, meaning there is a need for a far greater level of detail and disclosure than what can actually fit into the main report in order to remain readable. PepsiCo has attached an accompanying A-Z Topics area on the website (and also linked in the report) for specialist stakeholders. This section disclosures a wealth of data and lists policies on a wide array of issues, such as advertising, deforestation, palm oil, talent and many more. While the vast pool of data is ideal for specialist stakeholders, PepsiCo has utilised engaging visuals and the popularity of social media in order to extend the reach of its latest report.
Bold and engaging visuals, including hand-drawn graphics and real photography of PepsiCo projects, are used to provide engaging context to the written copy. A simple, linear value chain diagram shows how the strategy has become embedded throughout PepsiCo’s business. These visuals are also used to reach a different audience across social media. The visual assets created for the report have been turned into animated graphics for use on Twitter, further highlighting how PepsiCo has targeted different audiences using unique methods.
The report was notably published three months earlier than the previous year to better align it with the company’s financial results, in an attempt to strengthen the link between Performance with Purpose and the wider business results. The intention is to continue bringing the reporting forward to align directly with the financial results, and the data systems required are being developed.
Overall, PepsiCo’s latest sustainability report is a step change that combines transparent disclosure and impactful case studies with easy to understand and engaging infographics and visuals to reach out to all audiences. Feedback from internal stakeholders in PepsiCo has been very strong; the combination of a shorter report, datasheet and A-Z Topics has made it much easier for stakeholder-facing staff to engage with different areas of the company.
“We have been humbled to work with PepsiCo to help them reimagine their sustainability reporting – producing disclosure that’s detailed and robust for the specialists while also readily understandable for more mainstream audiences,” MerchantCantos’ director of sustainability Ian Roe said.
“The edie shortlist featured, as usual, the world’s strongest reporters and we are delighted to have got the nod among such an incredible field.”
What the judges said: “The PepsiCo sustainability report developed with the support of MerchantCantos was clear, engaging and easy to navigate. The online aspects of the report are transparent across all issues and creatively presented. The report also aligns well with global leading reporting frameworks – making this the standout entry.”
edie’s 2020 Sustainability Leaders Awards
Now entering their 13th year for 2020, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are sure to be one of the biggest nights of the year in the sustainability and energy space, with some exciting new categories added to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business.
The 2020 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 27 September 2019. The Awards will then take place on the night of 5 February 2020 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster.