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Christine Mason McCaull

Partner, Milsal + McCaull

TEDCRED 500+

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Pepsi's TED talk: Progressive corporate transformation, or TEDwashing (like greenwashing for intellectuals)?

How do we encourage corporations to be involved in the debate, discussion, action and hopefully be a part of massively needed solutions, without creating an apologia or greenwashing for current business practices? The PepsiCo talk highlighted the good, the foundation, social interaction, and Indra is a very charismatic leader, yet the bulk of their business is peddling unsustainable relatively non-nutritive snack foods and beverages with huge amounts of waste packaging (all FritoLay, Gatorade, QuakerOats) worldwide, with huge amounts of lifestyle and neuromarketing science going into creating demand, and the science of sales optimization. On the other hand, I look at how WalMart (big TED involvement) and how their sustainability efforts have been able to move the needle in packaging, or fisheries, and am grateful for their participation. Or Shell, a prior sponsor.

Can a Pepsi reinvent at the product level?

Here is the debate:
What is the role of corporations at TED, or on the TED stage?

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    Mar 7 2011: This will forever be a conumdrum - how pure is pure, or what shade of gray should be the boundary? TED needs to maintain a light enough shade of gray to preserve an air of authenticity, honest-brokery etc.

    Pepsi has its own version of this with its Refresh program - for instance could it possibly support a Refresh initiative in school systems that replaces its products with locally grown foods and beverages [eg- milks and juices]?

    The TED solution seems to be evolving one trial Talk at a time - if its community feedback is one of its evaluation tools then we should all maintain a high level of mindful conversation in these fora. Programs funded by Refresh are wonderful - but I for one couldn't help being disturbed at Ms Nooyi's references to Pepsi products as "fun". That felt like washing to me.

    The Refresh progran equates to $0.04/ $100 in sales; $0.40/ $100 in revenue. This compares with domestic carbonated beverage and snack foods generating $39/$100 in sales, $54/$100 in revenue. That's a lot of unhealthy "fun" for every penny "refresh"ing. [sources: TEDTalk, wikinvest]

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