NEW YORK — PepsiCo, Inc., General Mills, Inc. and Imperfect Foods have been recognized by Rabobank for their leadership in industry stewardship, sustainability and innovation. The three companies were announced as recipients of the annual Rabobank North America Leadership Awards during the Food & Agribusiness Summit, which was held virtually this week.

The awards celebrate both large-scale F&A corporations and fast-growing emerging companies that are setting examples of industry stewardship, sustainability and innovation across the region.

Rabobank said this year’s awards included an enhanced set of criteria, including companies’ responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and social responsibility criteria focused on employee and community efforts, as well as proactivity toward fostering racial equity. Finalists were reviewed by a panel of judges across industry, academia, non-profits, media, and the investment community.

“The challenges of 2020 showed why responsible leadership, commitment to sustainable practices and innovative solutions in the food and agricultural industry are more critical than ever before,” said Paul Beiboer, chief executive officer of Rabobank North America. “The companies we’re honoring today have made remarkable progress toward a more resilient and flexible food system while promoting a more inclusive world.”

Food and ag leadership

PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, NY, was awarded the Rabobank Award for Excellence in Food & Ag Leadership, which recognizes a large-scale market leader that has made lasting impacts in its sector. According to Rabobank, PepsiCo demonstrated outstanding corporate citizenship and agility in response to COVID-19 while setting standards of excellence within the industry.

Actions taken by the company during the year included a pledge of $400 million over the next five years to advancing racial equality initiatives, a $38.5 million investment in improving gender equality in agriculture, a commitment to sourcing 100% of its energy for direct operations from renewable sources, a shift to a more sustainable packaging supply chain to substantially reduce its use of plastic, and the launch of an accelerator to help advance purpose-driven solutions for the food and beverage industry.

In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic PepsiCo has provided charitable donations to more than 60 organizations, contributed millions for those in need of relief, and offered enhanced paid-time-off benefits for employees to quarantine or care for sick family members, Rabobank said.

“As one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, PepsiCo embraces our responsibility to help build a more sustainable and regenerative global food system, and we want to be a clear leader in improving planetary health, both the health of the environment and the health of society,” said Jim Andrew, chief sustainability officer at PepsiCo. “We have to be focused as a company on caring for the environment and the people across our supply chain, using our scale as a force for good. We know there is a lot more to do, and we are committed to taking bold action and making rapid progress using science as our guide.”

Leadership in sustainability

General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, took home the 2020 Rabobank Award for Leadership in Sustainability. The award recognizes a high-impact organization that has achieved unique steps toward business, environmental, social and governance sustainability, and General Mills was recognized in 2020 for its “bold regenerative agriculture projects, sustainable sourcing, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and commitment to 100% renewable energy in operations by 2030.”

Rabobank said General Mills further solidified its position as a leader during 2020 by engaging with its partners, communities and consumers on the importance of regenerative agriculture. Additionally, General Mills has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by increasing and adapting its giving to help equip charitable organizations with greater financial and food resources. Donations of more than $14 million during the year have included a “manufacture to donate” initiative where General Mills facilities manufactured and immediately donated product to Feeding America food banks, in addition to grants, locally and in key markets worldwide, to provide communities with relief and mitigate hunger.

“Thank you for recognizing General Mills’ commitment to sustainability — an area that means so much to me and our company,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer at General Mills. “Our business depends on the earth and its resources. Stressors to natural resources impact our ability to feed a growing population. To drive both planetary and business resilience, we are focused on regenerating the natural resources upon which we all depend. We are honored to receive this award and will continue to accelerate our efforts in support of the planet, people and the communities we serve.”

Leadership in innovation

Imperfect Foods, a San Francisco-based company with a mission to eliminate food waste and build a better food system for everyone by delivering “imperfect” produce and grocery items directly to consumers through its e-commerce platform, was presented the Rabobank Award for Emerging Leadership in Innovation. The award recognizes a fast-growing young company that addresses issues in the food and agribusiness space in an innovative way.

Imperfect Foods is an alum of Rabobank’s global startup discovery platform FoodBytes!, which debuted in 2015. According to Rabobank, Imperfect Foods has demonstrated its commitment to corporate responsibility through the creation of an internal diversity and inclusion board and charitable donations to the NAACP and Appetite for Change, among other initiatives.

Imperfect Foods also awarded 18 grants through its grant program, the Feeding Change Fund, to help support emergency food distribution efforts in response to COVID-19 and matched donations to Feeding America.

“In the US alone, 40% of food goes uneaten and $160 billion worth of food is wasted each year,” said Philip Behn, CEO at Imperfect Foods. “We are reimagining grocery delivery for a kinder, less wasteful world. We deliver sustainable, affordable groceries that make the weekly chore of shopping an effortless and delightful experience. Since 2015, Imperfect Foods has saved over 130 million lbs of food from going to waste.”