PepsiCo shifts CSR narrative by halting political investments and committing to loftier green goal

In light of the political unrest and storming of Capitol Hill, PepsiCo has shifted its corporate social responsibility (CSRnarrative by announcing that it will suspend all financial political action. This was followed by a pledge within the same week to achieve more than double its climate goals, illustrating how sustainability issues can be used to potentially shift public opinion. Climate change activism is widely considered a worthwhile cause, with *145% of US consumers considering it to be more important than before the pandemic or is now their top priority, writes GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Amira Freyer-Elgendy, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “By halting political spending the company thereby joins the line-up of other brands that are also reconsidering their CSR narrative, including Walmart, AT&T, Facebook and Disney. Companies are keen to avoid negative public perception by supporting the ‘wrong’ politicians, and the Capitol attack has called attention to the actions of certain lawmakers who were trying to overturn Biden’s win. These events have driven home that every investment of a brand needs to be carefully thought through, especially against the backdrop of a global health crisis.”

PepsiCo has recently doubled down on sustainability, by pledging net-zero emissions by 2040 and reducing more than 40% of its greenhouse gases by 2030. In GlobalData’s survey *289% of US consumers’ purchasing choices were found to be influenced by how ethical, environmentally-friendly or socially-responsible the product or service is.

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Freyer-Elgendy continues: “This demonstrates the wide appeal of eco-conscious product innovations and branding, and may signal an ongoing trend of brands backing fewer politicians in future; after all, recent events have proven this a risky venture when it comes to public opinion.

“It sparks an interesting debate on what role politics should play in the FMCG landscape. Authenticity in any type of political activism is key here though. With corporate greenwashing and pinkwashing being hot topics in the last few years, the public wants political action to be genuine. The delayed reaction from brands on rejecting Trumpism may undermine the authenticity, as consumers could perceive it as more of a token gesture after the fact.  Pulling the focus on widely acknowledged and supported issues, such as climate change, is a strategic move that is likely to garner the public’s favor.”

*1 Combined responses: “It is now my top priority”, “Significantly more important than before” and “Slightly more important than before” from GlobalData’s Week 11 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Consumer Survey Results – Published December 9th 2020

*2 Combined responses: “Always influences my product choice”, “Often influences my product choice”, “Somewhat influences my product choice” and “ Rarely influences my product choice” from GlobalData’s Week 11 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Consumer Survey Results – Published December 9th 2020

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