PepsiCo received a perfect 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s (HRCF) 2014 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmark survey of corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workplace equality.

The HRCF is the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization working to achieve equality for LGBT citizens.

The 100 percent CEI score earned PepsiCo the HRCF designation as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

“It all starts with our Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, who strongly values diversity and inclusion,” said Jim Wilkinson, PepsiCo executive vice president, Communications, and executive sponsor of EQUAL, PepsiCo’s LGBT employee resource group.

“PepsiCo follows a basic formula for doing business: respect others and win together. Including the presence and contributions of LGBT employees in our company and around the world, we have a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the communities in which we do business,” he said.  “We strive for perfection in everything we do, and it is particularly gratifying for PepsiCo to have achieved another 100-percent rating in HRCF’s Corporate Equality Index.”

PepsiCo has been at the forefront of promoting diversity and inclusion for decades, said Wilkinson.

Diversity and Inclusion at PepsiCo

The company helped break the color barrier in American business when it began hiring African-American professionals in the 1940s and become the first major company to appoint an African-American vice president in 1962. It was also the first multinational company to have a woman on its board of directors.

Along the way, PepsiCo has found that having a diverse and inclusive corporate culture is not only the right thing to do – it’s also good for business.

“We absolutely believe that our competitive advantage is our ability to leverage diversity and inclusion to fuel innovation, foster engagement, and strengthen our reputation in the communities we serve,” said Pamela Culpepper, PepsiCo’s global diversity and inclusion officer.

PepsiCo has recognized that in order to meet the needs of a diverse consumer base, they must have talent that reflects that.

Studies confirm PepsiCo’s belief that embracing diversity helps to fuel business success. A recent report from McKinsey and Company found that companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers.

 Providing a diverse and inclusive workforce for its employees globally is one of the pillars of what PepsiCo calls Performance with Purpose, which is PepsiCo’s plan for delivering sustained value.

According to Culpepper, diversity is central to who PepsiCo is as a company and it is present in every part of the business model. From the way the business recruits and promotes top talent, to the many opportunities every employee has to share ideas and participate in innovative projects, its commitment to diversity ensures PepsiCo has the best people doing their best work every day.

PepsiCo executives believe that the greatest innovation happens when there is a diversity of perspectives at the table. As a result, the company actively supports diversity programs and rewards teams who promote diversity in the workplace and the local community.

“All of our senior leaders are demonstrably committed to diversity and inclusion across the business,” said Patrick McLaughlin, senior vice president and chief HR officer for Frito-Lay North America.

Stepping up for LGBT employees

Most recently, the leadership team sponsored the 15th annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit to show their commitment to equality in the workplace.  And in November, PepsiCo sponsored the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Historically Black College and University LGBT Leadership and Career Summit to provide training to LGBT student leaders, and will provide internship opportunities to summit participants.

McLaughlin recalls the original meeting, back in 2000, when the idea of a PepsiCo LGBT employee resource group was first discussed.  The head of operations asked who in the leadership team would champion the group, he recalls. A few executives volunteered on the spot, including Al Gordon, a VP in the supply chain division and a leader in Mosaic, PepsiCo’s African-American employee resource group.

 “Al didn’t know a lot about LGBT issues,” said McLaughlin. “But he stepped up.”

In the ensuing years, Gordon embraced the LGBT group at PepsiCo, helping members define an agenda, secure funding for programs and support transformational initiatives, including securing domestic partnership benefits for LGBT employees in 2004.

“Al’s participation in this group demonstrates how leadership sets the tone for inclusion across the company,” said McLaughlin.

And these are not isolated events. PepsiCo has invested in hundreds of global programs and projects over the years to support the rights of women, people of color and differently-abled employees in the workplace. In 2012, more than 60 percent of its college recruits were people of color, women and those from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

The company also regularly ranks among the best places to work for LGBT employees on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking tool of corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees.

These programs and efforts are all about building a sustainable corporate model for the future, Culpepper says. “If your business depends on having top-level talent, and understanding the needs of a broad consumer base, diversity is the best way to do that,” she said. “Which is why diversity and inclusion are not just part of our brand message, it’s who we are.”

The Best Place to Work

For McLaughlin, PepsiCo’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has become a key selling point for recruiting efforts. When his team attends college recruiting events, local employees come along to talk about the company and what it’s like to work there.

"They speak so passionately about who we are and what we stand for,” he said. “It distinguishes us from other companies.”

And it will continue to distinguish PepsiCo in the future, as the company expands its brand and employee population.

“Demographics are changing, and if companies want to attract the best talent, they need to create an environment that accepts people for who they are,” McLaughlin said. “That’s what we do.”