February 18, 2021  

A PepsiCo associate leading the charge against climate change

Roberta Barbieri says her team’s mission is to battle climate change while building a better PepsiCo — here’s how she takes on that challenge every day.

Roberta Barbieri wasn’t your typical 7-year-old. Sure, she loved to wander in the woods behind her Connecticut home — but instead of building tree forts with her friends, she would suggest picking up trash. “Those woods were my world, so I wanted to keep it clean,” she says. “You can imagine I wasn’t the most popular kid to play with!”

Now that Roberta is Vice President of Sustainability for PepsiCo, she carries out her mission with a global mindset. She studies the company’s carbon footprint and searches for ways to shrink it, considering everything from how the potatoes that become Lay’s chips are grown to what kind of trucks deliver them to grocery stores around the world. “I feel a responsibility to act as an owner in helping set the course for how the company reacts to the climate crisis,” she says. “For someone like me, whose personal passion and career choice has been trying to save the planet, doing this work on a scale as large as PepsiCo is very compelling,” she says.

I feel a responsibility to act as an owner in helping set the course for how the company reacts to the climate crisis.


And Roberta’s role keeps her thinking big. Over the course of two years, her team laid the groundwork for PepsiCo’s new climate goal, which pledges to cut carbon emissions by more than 40% by 2030, more than doubling the company’s previous target, as well as reach net-zero emissions by 2040. These are huge, consequential numbers — the result of what Roberta describes as a “massive calculation of thousands of data points”— and they represent an ongoing commitment to the future of our planet and improving PepsiCo’s resilience.

The project was akin to solving an intricate puzzle — one that, Roberta explains, “doesn’t have just one outcome; the parts are constantly shifting and the end picture isn’t always clear.” She and her team measured the company’s carbon emissions at every step of the supply chain, then found the most meaningful ways to reduce those emissions. “This work required projecting so far out into the future,” Roberta says. “We spent long hours figuring out every last piece.”

For Roberta, working on the climate goal has been a career triumph, a “personal high point in making progress on climate change.” And yet, she brings that same passion and sense of urgency to all the projects under her domain — she also oversees water conservation and data collection and governance. “I’m busy in the best possible way,” she says. “I thrive on being a vehicle to make positive change for the planet.

Roberta standing in front of a mountain in Mexico

Roberta visiting the watershed that supplies
the water to a PepsiCo facility in Monterrey, Mexico.

For someone who spent her afternoons as a kid happily sorting bottles at the recycling center, it’s a dream career. Roberta earned a degree in environmental conservation and left university with the ambition of steering corporations down greener paths. “I wanted to find a job in business because I saw a chance to have more impact working from the inside,” she says.

She was drawn to PepsiCo in 2016 because she was impressed with the company’s leadership on sustainability-related issues. It’s work that ties in nicely with her larger life goals.

“I have two missions in life: to save the planet and raise two good men,” Roberta says. She feels that her 19- and 21-year-old sons are “kind, interesting and hard-working — that goal is looking pretty good,” she says with a smile. “Saving the planet is still a work in progress."