The outgoing head of the World Trade Organization is joining PepsiCo with a brief to help the food and drinks company deliver on a series of targets it has set from increasing workforce diversity to reducing plastic waste.
Roberto Azevêdo, the WTO’s sixth director-general, will become a full-time executive at the company behind Pepsi, Doritos crisps and Tropicana juice from next month.
“The company is committed to impactful changes and I’m really convinced I can help accelerate those changes,” he told the Financial Times
Mr Azevêdo, a former Brazilian diplomat who has been in charge of the WTO since 2013, disclosed in May that he was leaving one year early. The organisation has had to contend with rising world trade tensions, particularly between the US and China, and a sharp drop in global commerce during the pandemic.
His appointment as PepsiCo’s chief corporate affairs officer, a new role, is the latest example of multinationals signing up politicians and officials with geopolitical insights and contact books to match. This week, JPMorgan Chase said former UK chancellor Sajid Javid was joining the US bank’s European advisory council.
Mr Azevêdo said he had chosen the job at PepsiCo, where he will be responsible for public policy, government affairs and communications, over other offers from consultancies, law firms and other companies.
He has known Ramon Laguarta, the PepsiCo chief executive who replaced Indra Nooyi almost two years ago, for years and they once lived on the same street in Geneva.
He joins PepsiCo at a time of disruption in the sector that has intensified during the pandemic.
The group has benefited from people eating more snacks between meals during lockdown, although demand for drinks in bars and restaurants has been hit. The sector is also in the spotlight over the sugary and salt content of some products and concerns about its environmental impact.
PepsiCo has a set a range of environmental, social and corporate governance targets. These range from cutting new plastic content for its beverages by 35 per cent by 2025 to putting more than 250 black employees in managerial positions by the same year.
“I was speaking to Ramon just yesterday, and he was saying these targets are not for show, they’re for real,” Mr Azevêdo said. “If we promise something, we need to make sure that we deliver. I have always been a guy who loves delivery.”