Performance With Purpose: A Summer at PepsiCo

Nearly two years ago today, I was sitting in a conference room on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, discussing the issues surrounding the ethical treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry with a handful of students and Professor Mike Posner, co-founder of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. Over the course of an hour, I remember that room being filled with anxiety-ridden questions from students and patient replies from Professor Posner that reassured us that we were not the only ones asking. It was the first time that I truly felt that my interest in the intersection of business and human rights was not confined to a smattering of individuals across the globe.

As an undergraduate student, I had struggled to fit my aspirations of pursuing a private sector career with a significant social impact – “doing well while doing good” – with the realities of the job market. Meaningful positions in for-profit companies just did not seem to exist. It was during my conversations with Professor Posner that day, as well as in the year to follow, that I began to unravel the dynamic and growing field of business and human rights.

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The Center for Business and Human Rights is what brought me to pursue my MBA at NYU Stern, and I could not be happier with my decision. My first year not only built up my business acumen, but had me working closely with people who shared my passion. Before Stern, I could not have imagined being in such close proximity to scholars, faculty, and students who have their foot in the door of both the public and private sector worlds. The opportunity to immerse myself fully in a multinational company that shared this passion through the Business and Human Rights Fellowship was one I could not miss.

My fellowship at PepsiCo was exactly what I wanted out of my MBA internship. I had the opportunity to work in an influential multinational company and help shape their global human rights strategy. I also worked on projects that were crucial to strengthening PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose Vision. I assisted in monitoring updates to the Sustainable Sourcing Program, which tracks the compliance progress of PepsiCo’s global suppliers, analyzed and benchmarked PepsiCo’s policies against industry peers, and facilitated cross-functional discussions with the aim of identifying PepsiCo’s most salient sustainability issues.

 
 

In the last month, PepsiCo launched its 2025 Sustainability Agenda, redoubling its commitment to  Performance with Purpose and renewing its goals in the focus areas of Products, Planet, and People. The preparation for this launch was at the core of all my projects at PepsiCo, and I felt very proud to be able to read about the launch’s success.

Throughout the summer, I saw firsthand the seriousness of not only PepsiCo, but also of its peers to influence positive change in human rights and sustainability issues in the food and beverage industry. While the work in this space has only just begun, I came away from my summer knowing that, at the very least, industry-wide conversations about shared concerns have begun and are continuing to develop. One of the most important insights I have taken away from this summer is that while companies may deal with idiosyncratic issues that will depend on their product portfolios, positive change needs to be an industry-wide movement.

The focus on business and human rights is beginning to grow in companies and I am excited to see how this space will expand in the coming years. My career at Stern so far has ensured that I can be a part of this movement, and I look forward to the opportunities ahead.