October 06, 2022  

Growing PepsiCo’s sustainability around the world

Meagan Smith established PepsiCo’s Green Teams, a grassroots network that helps associates become more sustainable at work, at home and in their communities.

Meagan Smith loves nature. But when she planned her jogging route along the shore of Lake Michigan, she wasn’t looking for the most scenic views — she was looking for trash. Meagan made a point during her daily runs to visit a spot where litter collects so she could do a cleanup. “There is only one Earth,” Meagan says. “We should be doing everything we can to protect it.”

Acting on that principle is what first brought Meagan to PepsiCo 18 years ago. “I wanted to drive positive impact as fast as I could, and I saw a company that operates in more than 200 markets as a great place to do that,” she says.

As PepsiCo’s Global Marketing Director for Brand Sustainability, she uses consumer insights, package labeling and marketing campaigns to build awareness for sustainable beverages and foods. She saw she also had an opportunity to increase an interest in sustainability within PepsiCo when she walked into the employee cafeteria on her second day.

A stack of non-recyclable Styrofoam cups caught her attention. “Immediately, I said, ‘We have to take action,’” Meagan recalls. She began recruiting colleagues that same day to join a group dedicated to launching green initiatives in the Chicago office. They became PepsiCo’s first Green Team — a grassroots network that educates and engages associates in how to become more sustainable at work, at home and in their communities.

There is only one Earth. We should be doing everything we can to protect it.


“Green Teams are a way that all associates can be a part of PepsiCo Positive,” Meagan says, referring to the company-wide transformation that places sustainability and human capital at the core of PepsiCo’s business. “One simple act can make a big impact.” Meagan, who is now the Global Green Team Lead, has spent nearly two decades helming local sustainability projects, starting with those Styrofoam cups. By replacing them with recyclable alternatives, using projectors instead of paper handouts in meetings and putting timers on overhead lights, the Chicago office was able to reduce waste to landfill, decrease paper usage and lower energy consumption within two years.

“Seeing the work that people were willing to take on largely outside of their day-to-day roles to advance sustainability made me extremely optimistic, proud and honestly humbled,” Meagan says.

The next step was expanding Green Teams from a local movement into a global network at PepsiCo. “Launching pep+ gave us the platform to really drive awareness of Green Teams and how important they can be,” says Meagan, who was instrumental in that growth. She led the charge to create the “How to Start a Green Team” playbook, a guide to assembling members, identifying goals and developing a plan for how to achieve them. She oversaw the creation of a Global Green Team Advisory Group, which partners with the company’s sector Chief Sustainability Officers to provide guidance and tools to assist Green Teams at the local level.

Meagan sitting against a tree in the woods with her dog.

Meagan (pictured with her dog Skype) has a passion for sustainability
inspired by her lifelong love of nature.

The result: There are now approximately 90 PepsiCo Green Teams spanning nearly 40 countries across five continents. There were nearly twice as many new teams established in 2022 as there were in the first 15 years combined. Meagan says this all started the moment she voiced her opinions fearlessly.

“You’ll never know what just stepping up and voicing your opinion can lead to until you try,” Meagan says. For her, it led to the creation of a global network that provides all PepsiCo associates with a space to gain knowledge, share ideas and feel empowered to use their own voices. “Ask if a project is going to drive more carbon into the environment. If it’s using more water or if we’re in a watershed that’s at risk,” Meagan says. “It could make a huge, positive impact on your project, on PepsiCo, on communities.”

Making that type of impact continues to motivate Meagan. “People depend on the environment and its resources,” she says. “We should all be taking steps to drive sustainability every day.”