Pepsi Bottling mixes first CSR report in messaging

SOMERS, NY: Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG) issued its first CSR report last week and is working to integrate the message into all communications.

SOMERS, NY: Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG), the largest manufacturer, seller, and distributor of Pepsi-Cola, issued its first CSR report last week and is working to integrate the message into all communications.

In issuing the report, the $14 billion company was responding to inquiries about its sustainability practices from customers like Wal-Mart and Target, as well as potential employees, according to Paula Davis, VP of corporate communications.

The report, Act! Our Commitment to Making a Difference, had been planned for about a year. It highlights the group's eco-friendly practices, other environmental initiatives, and impacts in local communities. Highlights include $16 million donations in terms of money and product donations to individual and community organizations, 16,000 tons of plastic conserved through design and manufacturing innovations, and 83% of PBG waste stream recycled.

“This corporate responsibility report is a first at PBG,” Davis said. “We've been incorporating sustainable principles into our business for many years... We just realized last year, it's not enough to do it – we have to communicate it, too.”

Going forward, the company aims to educate and publicize the findings and its practices to employees, investors, customers, and other stakeholders. It will also incorporate these messages into brand communications that will be used in sales presentations and recruitment materials.

“We wanted to tell our story while advancing our goals,” Davis said. “We will continue to add to the report in the future. We made ambitious goals, and in a quantifiable way we're showing how we will reach them.”

The report was released online October 6 in keeping with the environmental theme of creating less waste. In conjunction, the company launched a Web site, pbgACT.com, as one of its first steps to redress the lack of awareness about its efforts. Press materials and e-mail notifications to stakeholders were also developed.

Davis noted that PBG's employees, often a key audience for CSR, were an important consideration, and that the information will be prevalent on its intranet and internal newsletter Thirst. Posters highlighting the “Act” site were placed in all work locations, as well.

“This corporate responsibility report is also a way to build excitement for our employees, most [of whom] work in field,” she said.

PBG's effort aligns with research that shows customers strongly consider cause-related activities when making purchasing decisions.

In a recently released cause study done by Cone, nearly nine in 10 Americans said “it is important for business[es], government, and nonprofits [to] collaborate to solve pressing social and environmental issues.” In addition, 85% said it was acceptable for companies to involve cause-related issues into their marketing, compared to 66% in a 1993 study from Cone.

The 2008 Cone Cause Evolution Study also showed that employees and key stakeholders need to believe companies are interested in causes, due to “the blurred line between work and home, employees are seeking more purposeful work.”

Alison DaSilva, EVP of knowledge leadership and insights at Cone, emphasized the growing interest from customers that want to know that a company is involved and what the company is doing.

A separate case study that the agency did with Duke University and released October 1 tracked consumer behavior in a convenient store setting. It showed a 74% increase in the purchase of a shampoo brand clearly linked with a cause.

“Consumers today want to see the alignment between the cause and the company,” DaSilva said. “They want the emotional benefit back and to see the practical function. It's no longer enough just to say, ‘Here's a pink ribbon.'”

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