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Feb 25, 2016

Purposeful performance

Governance professional of the year (large cap): Cynthia Nastanski, PepsiCo

Cynthia Nastanski, senior vice president for corporate law and deputy corporate secretary, has been instrumental in shaping PepsiCo’s disclosures and governance practices, particularly surrounding sustainability; the firm’s efforts in this area nearly won it the CSR disclosure award this year. Nastanski also deserves praise for the level of buy-in sustainability receives from senior executives, largely because of innovative and highly visible programs the company has introduced.

When Indra Nooyi was appointed CEO of PepsiCo in 2006, she launched the Performance with Purpose initiative, which has integrated sustainability into PepsiCo’s entire business. Unlike traditional CSR, Performance with Purpose focuses on how you make money rather than how you spend it once it’s made, Nastanski explains: ‘That means offering a wide range of products, finding innovative ways to minimize our impact on the environment and reduce operating costs, providing a safe and inclusive workplace for employees and respecting and investing in local communities.’

Nastanski’s group, which handles both corporate governance and SEC reporting, plays a big role in PepsiCo’s sustainability reporting initiatives and disclosures on related topics. ‘It’s clear in our governance guidelines that the board oversees sustainability as part of its responsibilities, which includes areas such as capital allocation, supply chain management, talent retention and portfolio innovation,’ Nastanski says.

‘To me, corporate governance always comes back to a principles-based approach. What is the right thing to do? If you look at companies that have got into trouble, they can always make arguments about why they think they did it the right way. Maybe they think they technically complied with the law, but if they really looked at themselves in the mirror, they would say, If I had taken a principles-based approach, this wouldn’t be the right thing to do.’

In addition to her work at PepsiCo, Nastanski is active in the broader governance community, as a member of the Harvard Governance Forum and the Society of Corporates Secretaries and Governance Professionals, among others. She is also a founder of the University of California, Berkeley Sustainable Business & Investment Forum. The push by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and others to enhance disclosure around sustainability metrics, in addition to her own work in shareholder engagement and disclosure, convinced her of the need for ‘more discussion among investors and corporations about sustainability,’ she says. ‘That’s my interest because of my role at PepsiCo and I knew, having gone to UC Berkeley, that it had a great program in this area’ and was the right academic institution to partner with.

David Bogoslaw

Associate Editor and Online features producer for Corporate Secretary