PepsiCo was among many companies that pledged to focus more on racial equity in the wake of George Floyd's murder in 2020. The food and beverage giant launched initiatives including several programs meant to lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo, as described by CEO Ramon Lagurata. Now PepsiCo is seeking to scale these efforts under the leadership of Derek Lewis, a 34-year veteran of PepsiCo, in February was named president of the company’s newly established Multicultural Business and Equity Development Organization, which is charged with scaling PepsiCo North America’s ongoing efforts to create economic opportunity for underserved businesses and communities, and address inequalities for historically excluded people.
Lewis most recently served as president of PepsiCo Beverages North America’s South Division. In a recent interview, he detailed his new job and gave his perspective on how companies big and small can make a difference. The following was excerpted from his conversation with Ad Age.
What was your first order of business for this new group?
Outside of jumping up and down with excitement, I wanted to create early energy, early excitement and early engagement regarding this new organization. This is a significant move for PepsiCo, as we take the next step in our racial equality journey, which is all part of the 'PepsiCo+' transformation, which creates growth and shared value. So we’re beginning the stages of bringing people on internally and externally, and driving excitement around what we’re about to go do, so we can kick this off in a really big way.
We already had the ball in motion. Through the South division we had a platform of events, activities and success that laid a foundation over the prior couple of years. We had a lot of momentum in the space and so a lot of that will be extended out into the organization. I’m in the process of building a new team, and we’re going to build upon the strategies already in place. We want to create massive alignment, cooperation, collaboration and connectivity. The programs that we’ve run, like She Got Now [an internship program focused on Black women], Juntos Crecemos [supporting Hispanic-owned businesses] and Pepsi Stronger Together [an engagement platform with origins in the company’s pandemic response] will all scale up. They were all strong programs that will have more legs now.