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PepsiCo and UEFA’s multi-faceted drive for sustainability

August 04 2023

PepsiCo, one of the world’s most recognisable consumer-facing companies, is doubling down on sustainability efforts across various operational areas. On the back of this, the company sees its newly extended partnership with UEFA, football’s European governing body, as a key tool to leverage its ambitious plans.

PepsiCo and UEFA’s multi-faceted drive for sustainability

PepsiCo is an undisputed global giant in the multinational food, snack and beverage sector. 

From Gatorade to Pepsi-Cola and Lay’s to Doritos, the company’s products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Last year, net revenue topped an eye-watering $86bn, underlining the popularity of PepsiCo’s portfolio of brands.

Such extraordinary levels of consumption bring inevitable sustainability challenges. However, the New York-headquartered company has attempted to take positive action in a number of areas, ever since the ‘Performance With Purpose’ initiative was launched back in 2006 with the aim of integrating sustainability into daily business operations.

Sustainability journey

In 2009, the Food For Good employee-led programme was launched, giving low-income children easier access to nutritious foods, before PepsiCo’s first all-electric delivery trucks hit the road in 2010. In 2013, the Sustainable Farming Program launched, and in 2016, PepsiCo UK delivered ‘50 in 5’ – a 50% reduction in carbon and water in five years.

The company’s sustainability focus was sharpened by the launch of its 2025 Sustainability Agenda in 2016, and two years later, industrial compostable snack packs were piloted in Chile, India and the US. 

In 2019, the company priced its first-ever Green Bond, with proceeds from the $1bn offering funding sustainability initiatives. PepsiCo’s sustainability efforts have accelerated since the start of the decade, though.

In 2020, PepsiCo announced that 100% of its snacks and drinks would be made with renewable electricity in the US by the end of the year, with the company setting a new target to source 100% renewable electricity globally across direct operations by 2030 and entire global operations by 2040.

A year later, the company revealed a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030 versus a 2015 baseline, as well as net-zero emissions by 2040. The pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) initiative was also launched in 2021, spanning projects across packaging, agriculture, water and community.

UEFA Champions League partnership

Whilst the company is working towards operational sustainability targets worldwide though, arguably its high-profile commercial partnerships in sport are likely to have the most immediate impact on public consciousness.

In June, PepsiCo extended a strategic partnership with UEFA, football’s European governing body, for three seasons. The deal features the Pepsi Max, Lays and Gatorade brands and covers UEFA’s flagship Champions League competition through to June 2027.

Now in the third cycle of its UEFA Champions League partnership, PepsiCo said that it would look to use the collaboration to accelerate its pep+ sustainability agenda.

“The objective is to ensure our sustainability actions are easy and accessible for fans, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners and ambassadors on these initiatives, while implementing new innovative actions as we grow,” Adam Warner, Head of Global Sports & Partnerships at PepsiCo, tells Global Sustainable Sport.

With this in mind, PepsiCo insists there is much more to come through the UEFA collaboration across Global Sustainable Sport’s 7 Sustainable Pillar’s of Sport, Partnership, Participation, People, Planet, Power, Profile and Prosperity.

Partnership pillar:

“We are bringing our PepsiCo positive (pep+) sustainability strategy to life at UEFA and plan to expand broader sustainable activities at more events and stadiums globally,” Warner says. “Our mission aligns strongly with UEFA’s Football Sustainability Strategy and together, we will continue to carry out our circular economy practices centred around the ‘4Rs Framework’ of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover’.”

As a starting point, PepsiCo has invested $1m into collaborative projects with the UEFA Foundation as well as planet-focused initiatives, including joint efforts to pave the road to a zero-waste-to-landfill Champions League final by 2026.

“The objective is to ensure our sustainability actions are easy and accessible for fans." Adam Warner, Head of Global Sports & Partnerships at PepsiCo

Participation pillar:

Lay’s RePlay is a global initiative in partnership with the UEFA Foundation for Children and streetfootballworld – an international network of non-profit organisations that aim to use football to engage young people and teach them life skills. At the heart of the initiative is a simple premise – transforming empty crisp packets into sustainable football pitches, helping to increase participation in communities.

Since launching in 2021, Lay’s RePlay has unveiled seven football pitches in South Africa, Brazil, the UK, the US, Italy, Egypt and Mexico. By the end of 2023, the pitches will be accessible to over 14,000 people around the world. To date,  there have been nearly 25,000 cumulative total uses of all pitches.

“We are proud of the current numbers and look forward to seeing them grow as we introduce additional pitches, four of which are currently in the planning stages, bringing RePlay’s global footprint to 10 countries with 11 pitches,” Warner says.

PepsiCo also runs 5V5, an annual tournament for grassroots football fuelled by Gatorade. Now in its eighth year, the Gatorade 5V5 initiative has given over 126,000 boys and girls from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to progress in the sport, with some participants going on to forge successful careers in the game.

Women’s football is also a major focus of PepsiCo’s sporting initiatives.

“Across all our brands within both beverages and snacks, we’re continuing to build on our longstanding commitment to women’s football through a range of community-led and brand activations to drive awareness, visibility, fame, and participation in the women’s game through multiple pillars including strategic awareness driven ideas, partnerships, education and innovation, and community,” Warner adds.

“Across our 2023 campaigns, we focused on equal representation for both men and women through all our initiatives. For example, Brazilian global music artist, Anitta and Grammy-award winner Burna Boy headlined the 2023 UEFA Champions League Final Kick Off Show by Pepsi. Meanwhile, Lay’s prioritised equal representation by partnering with Theirry Henry and Lieke Martens to showcase what Lay’s brings to the game-watching experience through the ‘No Lay’s No Game’ platform.”

A new multi-year premier partnership with UEFA focusing on women’s football will strengthen PepsiCo’s efforts in this space.

Meanwhile, this year the company was an official sponsor of the inaugural Women’s Finalissima – a one-off soccer match organised by UEFA and CONMEBOL, football’s governing body in South America. PepsiCo also supported the UEFA Women’s Euros last year.

The Lay’s RePlay programme is also set up to equally address community members of all genders and are intentionally collaborating with organisations whose missions are dedicated to encouraging access to sport for young women. For example, the initiative’s local partner in Turkey is an organization called Kizlar Sahada (Girls on the pitch).

Adam Warner, Head of Global Sports & Partnerships at PepsiCo

Adam Warner, Head of Global Sports & Partnerships at PepsiCo

People pillar:

The Lay’s RePlay long-term educational sporting programmes are designed to use the positive power of play and football to address social issues impacting local communities. The programs are crafted and measured against four key areas: creating a sense of belonging, increasing engagement, fostering safety, and granting access to sport.

“We are very proud that our partnership with the UEFA Foundation for Children is going to continue over the course of the next UEFA Champions League sponsorship cycle and we will continue to work collaboratively to identify opportunities where the social power of football can make the difference,” Warner explains.

“Our joint commitment to driving impact on and off the pitch, for fans now and for generations to come, is what continues to drive our partnership with UEFA. We know that new generations of fans feel the importance of societal impact and will be a driver of positive change in the future, and we truly believe the democratic power of football can involve millions of people across geographies and generations. Our societal initiatives aim to drive positive change, with the combined power of our partners in this space, including engaging younger fans through programmes like Lay’s Replay and Gatorade 5v5.”

Planet Pillar:

To mark the extended partnership with UEFA, and as a taste of what is to come, PepsiCo worked with the governing body to implement circular economy practices at the 2023 men’s and women’s Champions League finals.

At the women’s game in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, returnable packaging solutions were provided for both food and drink – with fans incentivised by a deposit scheme to hand back their reusable items. At the men’s game in Istanbul, Turkey, PepsiCo partnered with start-up TURN to use 80,000 smart reusable cups and bins equipped with a QR code that enabled a “reuse and reward mechanic” for attendees. People who recycled a cup through these bins were rewarded with a smartphone wallpaper and had the chance to win tickets. In addition, 100% rPET bottles of Pepsi-Cola were served into zero plastic and fully recyclable fibre cups across all stadium and fan zones concession spaces.

Additionally, Lay’s Replay itself has an environmental layer added to its broader societal impact as the pitches are created by giving empty crisps packets a second life, and shock pad layers are produced to be 100% recyclable at the end of their lifespan. According to an assessment conducted by the Good Business consultancy, Lay’s RePlay pitches have a significantly lower environmental impact than other artificial playing surfaces in terms of CO2 emissions, recyclable materials, ecological disturbance and water usage.   

Power Pillar:

According to Warner, collaborations with external specialists is vital to the success of the company’s sustainability initiatives. This, he adds, helps to improve governance practices.

“We have thorough governance in the execution of our sustainability efforts,” he says. “On top of the internal expertise of our sustainability team, the execution is then put in place and monitored by expert actors. For example, the plans recently implemented in Istanbul and Eindhoven were collaboratively developed in partnership with the Local Organising Committee, the municipality and waste management operator. Every single action causes an impact in this space and partnership of all stakeholders in the chain is essential to make it right.”

“Sustainability is going to continue to be an important pillar of our relationship with UEFA." Adam Warner, Head of Global Sports & Partnerships at PepsiCo

Profile Pillar:

Despite being a European governing body, UEFA competitions are watched by football fans worldwide. With that in mind, PepsiCo is eager to leverage the partnership’s sustainability initiatives to an even wider audience over the coming years. This will include, for example, doubling the number of activations in the United States and the Middle East.

“The plan to expand will include communication, commercial activation, thematic packaging, experiential events – like screening or Trophy events – all with the effort to bring the competition closer to the fans and community programmes in partnership with the UEFA Foundation,” Warner adds.

“While our sustainability efforts in partnership with UEFA will continue to be deployed mainly in Europe, which is where the games are hosted, we are confident that these actions can inspire similar efforts beyond Europe and across other regional PepsiCo partnerships. We will continue to develop innovative sustainability initiatives dependent on the location of the Champions League finals and local guidelines.”

Prosperity Pillar:

Looking to the future, PepsiCo is keen to learn lessons from previous initiatives with UEFA as it seeks to adapt and evolve its plans to optimise the partnership’s sustainable objectives – alongside its commercial goals – in the coming years.

“Sustainability is going to continue to be an important pillar of our relationship with UEFA,” Warner adds. “This journey has just started, and we can credibly say that we have set the foundations for the future with a research phase that has involved a selection of football clubs… to understand the ‘status quo’. With this, there are learning factors and a first structured application at the events in Istanbul and Eindhoven this year.

“We are now in the process of collecting all the learnings from the events, both from an operational perspective and more specifically in terms of fans reactions to the initiatives deployed to continue to play our role, in partnership with UEFA, to pave the road to the common objective of delivering a zero waste to landfill UEFA Champions League final by 2026 and onwards.”

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