Every EHS project meeting at PepsiCo begins the same way.
"Nothing is more important than safety," John Compton, former CEO of PepsiCo Americas, Foods, tells each group.
"Making safety a priority is a demonstration of how we live, our core values of delivering sustained growth," adds Eric Foss, CEO of Pepsi Beverages.
And then, Indra Nooya, PepsiCo chairman and global CEO, jumps in, telling them that “health and safety aren't just abstract ideas we talk about – they are central to what we at PepsiCo are all about.”
From there, a litany of voices come in from around the globe – PepsiCo CEOs of Europe, the Middle East and Americas; chiefs of science, nutrition and human resources; of food and beverage – all of them laying out a concise, harmonized message about the safety standards at the core of the company's global leadership.
This four-minute video that sets the tone at the onset of every EHS presentation and meeting is the culmination of a solid year of work by Craig Torrance, global director of Health, Safety and Well-Being at PepsiCo. There is nothing novel or earth-shattering in the content of the video; it essentially is the same "safety-first" message pinned up in the corner of just about any EHS office.
But what is unique about it, and arguably earth-shattering, is the high-ranking voices it includes, all of the senior leaders gathered together to deliver one powerful message of a unified dedication to safety. And that, said Torrance, is what holds the company's efforts together.
"This is what safety leadership looks like," he told a packed room of EHS professionals and engineers at ASC 2013. "This is what commitment looks like."
Building the Global Standard
The work behind this short video began back in 2009 when Torrance was pegged with the task of developing a cohesive, global machine safety program for PepsiCo. A project that was long overdue for the company, but barbed with endless, impossible complications.
PepsiCo – in its full scope – includes some 300,000 employees working in 800 plants in 200 countries. In all, the company operates about 7,000 sites that are responsible for the production and distribution of an incredibly diverse range of products and goods, each of them requiring its own unique, complicated process. The hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of machines those sites employ are equally diverse and are all tangled in a complicated web of legacy standards, local regulations and regional laws.
Trying to tame that mess into a cohesive EHS program at the factory level would be impossible. Torrance could see that from the outset.
"We quickly realized that to put a common, identical program in place would take years; the battles would be relentless," he said. "So we started with a harmonized approach."
That approach, he explained, links common traits and concepts out across the business, setting rigid general standards for every division and allowing flexibility at the local level. It includes three layers of management:
This structure, Torrance explains, aligns the whole company – in all its global vastness – to a standard system, which disentangles the site-level quagmires without getting stuck in them. That's a solid concept and a solid plan, but, he noted, one that requires absolute corporate support to pull off.
"If you don't have leadership, you are going to fail," he explained. "We [decided] to go after machine safety and we're going to spend x dollars, but if we haven't lined up leadership first? It's going to crash."
And there he began his quest for help from above.
The 12 months Torrance spent drumming up support for his program took him across the world in an intense EHS roadshow hitting CEOs, executive councils and operating senior vice presidents, health and safety leadership councils and engineering councils through every division and every sector within the company.
"I needed to get something that said we're committed to health and safety," he said. "If I didn't have that – something very tacit that says what we're going after – then it would crumble." In the end, that meant about 100 corporate leaders that needed to be educated, cajoled, negotiated with and convinced before he could even get started.
And after a year, when it all came together – when all of those CEOS and C-level leaders gathered in New York to record his safety video – Torrance finally had the validation and support he needed to implement his global plans.
He also came away with something else: a formal corporate safety policy composed after those months of conversations and negotiations, signed by the big boss herself, Indra Nooyi.
In that policy Torrance highlighted is an official mandate that every factory, site and division must comply with all national and international regulations and standards, which is obvious, but also that they must comply with the company standards. And that, Torrance, said, was the lever he needed to get his machine safety program underway.
"'You will meet company standards," he recited. "That comes from our policy, which is our high-level direction-setting straight from our CEO… And that removes a lot of barriers."
Torrance carried this policy with him through all the implementation process and continues to today. When me meets with a project team and faces what he calls the usual complaints – the "we can't afford to make this project meet the machine standards today" and the like – he can demonstrate that shortcuts and workaround and excuses aren't just violations of plant standards of EHS protocol anymore. They violate the basic policy of the entire global enterprise.
And that gives Torrance the authority to enforce a simple, outrageous rule: "If you can't afford to do it safely, you can't afford to do it."