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Pepsi Refreshes Its Disability Employee Network

September 21 2010 | by


I’ve spoken a lot about PepsiCo and its EnAble employee network for people with different abilities. Under direction from CEO Indra Nooyi, the consumer food and beverage company is out to deliver shareholder growth through its Performance with Purpose principles. The goal is to “improve all aspects of the world in which [Pepsi] operates – environmental, societal and economical – to make the world a better place.” Attracting and retaining the best talent is among those goals, as is creating a more sustainable environment and healthier snacks.

Other corporations see EnAble as a vibrant, respected employee network. Recently they’ve been using the program to reach consumers and the marketplace, says Ron Parker, SVP, Global Diversity and Inclusion at PepsiCo, speaking at the U.S. Business Leadership Network conference in Chicago.

I think this is a really smart idea, as employee networks have the power to touch many more people, such as parents, caregivers and consumers Disabilities as a group is making a tremendous economical footprint in the U.S. and beyond, and is the next frontier in corporate diversity just like women and Hispanics were in earlier decades.

For starters, Pepsi participates in, and provides funding to, community disability groups on a local and national scale including Ability Beyond Disability (based in Mt. Kisco, N.Y.),, Autism Speaks, Guiding Eyes for the Blind and others. These touch points help Pepsi gain insights about how to better provide for its employees with disabilities and their caregivers.

In the workplace, Pepsi also provides a variety of assistive technologies to employees, and is consistently ranked among the best companies for people with disabilities by DiversityInc. And anytime Pepsi builds a plant or does a capital improvement it’s standard operating procedure to make sure that building is accessible.

Parker says the connection between EnAble and the rest of the marketplace is strong. People with disabilities have more than $1 trillion in income and $220 billion in disposable income. They have two times the spending power of teens and 17 times the spending power of tweens. And with more than 50 million U.S. Baby Boomers getting older, it’s clear that Pepsi’s marketplace is changing to include more people with disabilities.

In the marketplace, Pepsi is most famous for airing a pre-game Super Bowl commercial featuring Deaf employees who are also EnAble members. The ad was performed entirely in sign language and has 150 million viewers and 2 million YouTube views.

Pepsi is also starting to add in more disability advertising. As part of it’s Gatorade “G” print and digital campaign, Pepsi recruited non-disabled athletes like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan to represent the spirit of sports. Among these sports legends, Pepsi chose to also include Jason McElwain, or “J Mac,” an autistic high school basketball team manager who, when finally given a chance to play on the court, scored 20 points and was the game’s highest scorer.

And in Florida, Pepsi delivery trucks have billboards that promote disability events like Autism Speaks’ annual walk-a-thon.

Parker says Pepsi wants to change the branding from disability to different abilities. “What if someone gave you the opportunity to invest in China in 1970? Disabilities is the largest emerging market,” he says.


  • Abbie Sladick (Stylish Safety)

    This is an amazing article! Change will truly begin to happen when the private business recognizes that all parts of the market are valuable, not just that which is temporarily able bodied.

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