Dan Bena found his calling when he discovered the effect that could be made on the world by tweaking the standard business model for sustainability. “The thing that fuels my passion is the impact that we can collectively have,” says the senior director of Global Sustainable Development for PepsiCo. “When we can have a material impact, how can you not be passionate about solutions?”
For seven years, Bena has set out to redefine the way the world does sustainable business. But it was Jeff Sachs of the Earth Institute who first showed Bena the possibility that a food and beverage giant like PepsiCo could have. After walking Sachs through all of the projects that PepsiCo was involved in globally, Sachs “sat there and asked how many countries PepsiCo operates in,” Bena says. When it became clear that the company operated in more spaces than even the United Nations, it was Sachs who told Bena that PepsiCo should change their sustainability focus “from a collection of really interesting projects to a handful of truly earth-changing projects,” he says.
Bena pushes the company to think not just about the output of its production, but also the outcomes. PepsiCo takes steps around the world to reduce its water footprint, and the company recognized water as a human right in 2009, a year before the United Nations. In addition to water stewardship programs, PepsiCo is reducing its water-use efficiency 20 percent by 2015. More on the philanthropy side, the company partners with organizations to provide access to safe water for more than 3 million people. Bena ties all of these partnerships together. “I see myself as the ‘glue’ that binds all of these diverse programs,” he says.