By Sara Brown | MIT Sloan Ideas Made to Matter | January 26, 2021
During the 1989 Grammy awards, PepsiCo became the first company to air a television commercial entirely in Spanish, without subtitles or dubbing. Years earlier, in the 1940s and 1950s, the company broke barriers by creating an all-Black sales force and electing a woman — actress Joan Crawford — to the board of directors. Despite a strong history of boosting diversity and inclusion, the company still has work to do, according to Merary Simeon, the North America vice president of diversity and engagement at PepsiCo. (The company apologized after a notable misstep with a 2017 commercial.)
“We got to be proactive. Now, PepsiCo has been at it since the 1940s, so, we’re kind of good at it,” Simeon said at the MIT Sloan Retail Conference last December. “However, we still have a long way to go. Even the best companies out there still continue to work on this journey.”
For Pepsi, that meant taking stock of where the company stands, setting new goals, and establishing clear steps to achieve them. In June of 2020, the company announced that it would invest $400 million over five years to support Black businesses and communities and increase Black representation at Pepsi. The company was also still working on other goals, including aiming to spend $272 million with Hispanic suppliers by 2020.
The plans are available on the company’s website, part of Pepsi’s commitment to transparency, Simeon said. The company looks at diversity and engagement in three main areas: employees, businesses, and communities.
Simeon offered advice for other companies seeking to update their equity goals.