PepsiCorps volunteers make significant contributions and hone leadership skills.
In October, a diverse group of PepsiCo employees from several countries traveled to Afogados da Ingazeira in northeast Brazil to help expand and improve the lives and livelihoods of local farmers in communities affected by severe drought.
The employees are the latest participants in PepsiCorps, an innovative, skills-based volunteer program supported by PepsiCo Global Citizenship.
"The northeast region of Brazil has suffered from a severe drought during the past several years," said Charlene Denizard, who manages the PepsiCorps program for PepsiCo Global Citizenship.
"Rivers that were flowing three years ago are now dry. The drought has wreaked havoc on the region's agricultural production and it's having a serious impact on the people in the region," she said.
The PepsiCorps Brazil volunteers were divided into two teams. One volunteer team worked with a local non-profit organization to help build its marketing and communication capabilities so it can increase its ability to help agro-ecological farmers have better market access.
A second of team worked with a community association that operates a fruit processing facility and sells its products to the government for school lunches. The PepsiCorps volunteers conducted market research and developed marketing and business plans to increase production, reduce costs and expand the business to reach new customers.
PepsiCorps was developed by a small group of PepsiCo employees who were seeking ways to make the company's Performance with Purpose vision more personal in the lives of its employees.
The first PepsiCorps team was deployed to Ghana in 2011. In 2012 the program doubled to two teams; one deployed to India to work on drinking water projects and one to Albuquerque, N.M. to work on sustainable agriculture projects on Native American lands.
In addition to assisting underserved communities, the program provides volunteers professional development benefits as well.
"As a global company, we hope PepsiCorps volunteers gain a global perspective," said Denizard. "When you take people completely out of their comfort zone and put them in an underserved community, it opens their eyes to the challenges and issues affecting the lives of people in different countries - and the challenges of doing business there.
"The program also provides a unique opportunity to build leadership skills," said Denizard. "Taking people out of their daily routines and putting them in a place where things aren't so certain teaches creative problem solving, improves listening skills and helps develop the skills necessary to overcome challenges using innovative solutions."
Carrie Wells, an employee solutions senior manager with BIS in Somers, N.Y., traveled to Ghana as part of PepsiCorp's pilot program in 2011 where she worked on water projects and taught hygiene to elementary and junior high school students.
Wells' BIS team works with business partners from around the world. She credits her PepsiCorps experience with giving her "a global mindset, which includes a sensitivity to local ways of working.
"My job requires implementing solutions that have not been implemented before," said Wells. "My PepsiCorps experience taught me to understand and leverage the collective skills of the team, envision the end state, and tactically move forward until you reach your goal."
The power of teamwork is often cited by former PepsiCorps participants as a major lesson learned.
"Our experience in India made me a greater advocate of teamwork and a stronger believer in the ability to deliver more as a team than as individuals, to complete each other and learn from the different skills within a team," said Ghada Bazzi, a PepsiCo planning manager who works in finance in Lebanon. "I also learned to be a better listener, and enhanced my communication skills, especially within groups coming from different cultures."
Derika Legg, a sales director in Somers, N.Y. was attracted to PepsiCorps as an opportunity to "immerse myself in a new culture with the sole focus of helping people."
Legg traveled to Rajasthan, India in 2012 where she worked with a local non-governmental organization to improve access to safe drinking water. She said the word "collaboration" took on new meaning as a result of her participation.
"We are so much smarter as a team than as individuals," said Legg. "I find that I'm much more willing to bounce ideas off of colleagues since returning."
"I feel PepsiCorps made me a stronger and more inspirational leader," said Geoff Terrill, supply chain director in Cambridge, Ontario, who traveled to Ghana in 2011. "I also think differently now about the environment, particularly clean and safe drinking water around the world, and the impact that we can have in PepsiCo in our daily work across the supply chain."
And did PepsiCorps help personalize PepsiCo's Performance with Purpose?
"Performance with Purpose is more than just a buzz phrase and the PepsiCorps experience is the greatest manifestation of this concept," said Legg. "I can truly say that I'm proud to tell people I'm a PepsiCo employee."
Early next year, another team of PepsiCorps volunteers will be deployed to South Africa.