In light of growing environmental concerns, more and more key players in the food and beverage industry are working towards initiatives that respond to the global shift in consumer behaviour towards recycling and reducing plastic use. Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, talks to WDO about the efforts this food and beverage giant is taking towards more responsible consumption and production, as well as his vision of sustainable design and social happiness.

Tell us a bit about the role that PepsiCo takes to change consumer behaviour towards triggering more responsible habits?

We realize that our global scale means even small changes can make a big difference. As part of PepsiCo’s shared vision, we’re committed to expanding our portfolio to offer more nutritious options, while also reducing our environmental footprint.

In regards to sustainability, we’re increasing our use of recycled content in our PET bottles and driving equipment innovation, as seen with “Spire” – a digital fountain that lets consumers personalize their favorite PepsiCo beverage brand.

Most recently, we launched a new “hydration platform” that makes it easier for consumers to stay hydrated with great-tasting beverages, digitally track their hydration, and help meet the growing consumer demand for more sustainable packaging.  With this launch, we delivered a beautifully designed hydration dispenser, a companion, user-friendly smartphone app, and a personalized QR code sticker for reusable bottles that allows consumers to be effortlessly recognized by the dispenser.

These efforts, and a variety of others, are helping us meet the evolving consumer demand for more-sustainable, convenient ways of consuming our products.

Has this global push towards more responsible consumption – of plastic in particular, informed your own design and business philosophy?

Since I first embarked upon my chosen career path, sustainability and responsible consumption has always been part of my approach and philosophy.  In fact, prior to joining PepsiCo, I was a sustainability advocate already during my 3M days working on a variety of projects and initiatives. One of my favorite ones was a sustainable line of products under the brands Post-it® and Scotch®.

As designers, we are driven by creating value for the people we serve, conscious of the society they live in, and the environment
that surrounds them

To me, embracing a sustainable and responsible approach should be a must for any designer. At PepsiCo, we’re striving to help build a world where plastics need never become waste. To achieve this, we are reducing the amount of plastics we use in our packaging, working with partners to boost recycling rates, and reinventing how we think about packaging our products. Within PepsiCo Design + Innovation, we’re working to support our shared goal of designing 100% of our packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.

You’ve said that you believe ‘design could create a better world’. How is this feasible in the food and beverage industry?

We all eat and drink every day. At PepsiCo, we also know that our products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day, around the world. With that insight, we believe that a food and beverage experience can deliver a functional value. That’s the first goal as designers; we can evolve the functionality and the value of what we consume – whether it be food and beverage as products or its packaging and the environment of use.

But food and beverages goes beyond functionality. Eating is a ritual, buying food is an experience, and consuming food and beverages is often associated with an occasion or a memory. A meal with your family, a concert with friends, a night working at the office, and much more.

As designers, we have the opportunity – and with that the responsibility – of designing (food and beverage) products and (purchase and use) experiences that generate value into the lives of people, by adding moments of convenience, of fun, of style, of safety, of comfort. Those moments and those experiences, if designed in the proper way, are fragments of a broader social happiness that we, the creatives of the world, can collectively generate when driven by the right intent.

In relation to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal # 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, does design have more impact on responsible consumption or on responsible production?

Absolutely both. I believe design can equally impact the practice of responsible consumption and responsible production. Designers are in charge of designing for the full life cycle of a product – from its production to its consumption. If we do our work well, one cannot exist without the other. Obviously, this is a process. Establishing the desired production infrastructure and support takes time, and design can help accelerate it all. From helping to build new habits in society, exploring the cost / affordability of production changes, to responsibly considering potential roadblocks and reinforcing the importance of achieving the goals we are setting for us and our planet.

What approach does PepsiCo employ to address sustainability within its own design philosophy?

Design is one of the key differentiating capabilities that make PepsiCo a stronger company. Our unique culture contributes to that strength and raises the bar on our talent and diversity. As the leader of our design organization, I take this responsibility to heart.

Throughout the company, we believe sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, including how we approach design. The ultimate goal of a designer is – by nature, culture and training – to feel, investigate and understand people’s needs and desires and to then develop meaningful experiences aimed to satisfy them.

Design puts the human being at the very center of its universe and constantly crafts products, services and brands that add moments of joy, comfort, convenience, safety, fun or health into people’s lives.

Within PepsiCo Design + Innovation, we embrace sustainable practices from the way we foster our culture in the office, to the brand experiences we create for consumers.  As an example, I empower and encourage my team to lead projects that they are passionate about and are able to leverage company resources during 15% of their time. Through this initiative, much of our team, myself included, have been managing activities centered around sustainability and health & wellness.

Looking back, some would say that design is fundamentally related to the industrial revolution, to mass-production and to a need to produce and consume goods of better quality. Today, we speak about design in terms of its power to provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Looking ahead, what do you see for the future of design?

Design will be all about creating social happiness. To achieve that happiness – from the broader society all the way to each individual – designers will need to dream, design and produce products, services and experiences that are sustainable in a holistic way. From an ecological standpoint (eco-friendly), from an emotional standpoint (engaging), from a social standpoint (respectful and diverse), from an intellectual standpoint (user friendly and accessible) and, of course, from a visual standpoint (balanced and beautiful).

About Mauro

Mauro Porcini joined PepsiCo in 2012 as its Chief Design Officer.  In this newly created position, Mauro is infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and is leading a new approach to innovation by design that impacts the company’s product platforms and brands.

Mauro was awarded with the Business and Culture Award by the Italy America Chamber of Commerce and received the US Design Brand Leader Award (2016). “Il Giornale” named him “One of the 10 Italians that will change the world” (2015).

Mauro was included in Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business 1000” in 2014. Since 2013 Mauro has been part of the “Italian Talents in a Foreign Country” community of the Aspen Italia Institute. In 2012 Fortune Magazine listed him in the “40 under 40” ranking – its list of “the business’s hottest rising stars” and the PoliMi of the University Politecnico of Milan has recognized him with the AlumniPolimi Awards 2012 (area Creativity). In 2011, Fast Company recognized him as one of the “50 Most Influential Designers in America” and “Master of Design” while the World HR Forum in Mumbai presented him with its “Award for Leadership and Innovation.”

Mauro sits on the Board of Directors of the Design Management Institute, on the Board of Directors of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce and on the advisory council of other design and art institutions. He currently lives and resides in New York City.

Mauro is a member of the World Design Capital 2020 Selection Committee.

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