By Dan Bena
(Video: This amazing documentary was made by The Keystone Center & 3 high school students from Racine, WI, US, in 2011 & focused on youth views of global issues/The Keystone Center)
Last week I enjoyed a morning at my alma mater, Manhattan College, where PepsiCo sponsored the Youth Policy Summit through the Keystone Center. The Summit engages high school students - in this case, one from as far away as Alaska - to learn mediation, collaboration, and communication skills in the context of complicated policy dilemmas. It is a great concept, and proved to be an outstanding experience.
In a survey by Accenture a couple of years ago of nearly a thousand global CEOs, I recall that 72% of them identified education as the “global development issue most critical to address for the future success of their business.” Well, the CEOs in this survey should have seen and heard the students this morning! It would have given them reason to be optimistic, as it did for me. Our society really is in good hands with youth leaders of tomorrow like the ones I had the honor of engaging with at the summit.
I am fortunate to speak to many audiences but I think high-school students are quickly becoming my favorite. They have absolutely no hidden agendas. They are not job seeking, or out to impress a college professor, or a non-profit hoping for funding or other support. In the end, they are just kids. Kids interested in making the world a better place to live - for themselves, their friends, their parents, and maybe even their own children someday. They have no filters - what you see is what you get, and - more importantly, what they say is what they mean! It is a sobering and humbling experience for any company, I think, to talk about their mission in front of high school students.
The Summits have different areas of focus each time they are conducted, and this one was about "Urban Sustainability". I was on an expert panel for environmental sustainability, and shared how proud I am to be entering my 28th year at PepsiCo. I talked about the positive impact we are having in environment - like water conservation and stewardship, energy reduction, solid waste elimination, and engaging farmers all across the world. The other panelists also talked about watersheds, and energy efficiency, and vertical farming, but - in the end - it was really about the skills you need to succeed in life. I told them, above all else, to find something they are passionate about, and learn how to act on that passion in a compelling and collaborative way.
It is so gratifying to see how PepsiCo’s work can inspire young people. This was proven to me when three of the students (14 and 15 years old!) - independently - came to me afterward and said, “after hearing about all the great things your company is doing, I know that I want to work for PepsiCo.” My colleagues and I are proud to work at PepsiCo, and the Possibilities section of our website highlights some of our stories – many of my colleagues bring to PepsiCo the same energy as these young students!
- Dan Bena is currently the Senior Director of Sustainable Development for PepsiCo, serving as liaison between technical functions, government affairs, public policy, and field operations to develop key strategies and messaging to internal and external stakeholder groups. In 2009, Dan was appointed to the Steering Committee of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, and also serves on the Mandate's working groups for Water as a Human Right and Water Policy Engagement. He also serves on the Global Agenda Council for Water Security of the World Economic Forum and is a contributing member to the Water Core Working Group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This editorial originally appeared on July 31, on the Pepsico Employee Blog,` Living The Promise'.