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Darren Walker on Pepsi Board: Ethical Dilemma or Ethical Opportunity?

With regard to Ford Foundation President Darren Walker joining the board of PepsiCo, the New York Times asks: “An Activist for the Poor Joins Pepsi’s Board. Is that Ethical?”
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/an-activist-for-the-poor-joins-pepsis-board-is-that-ethical.html?ref=business
The answer has less to do with Mr. Walker joining the board and everything to do with how he behaves on it. Assuming he remains true to the values and personal character that have made him such a compelling and effective leader on issues of poverty and social justice, there’s not only nothing unethical about his new role, but in fact reason to believe he will contribute to even stronger ethical standards for Pepsi as a whole.
If we want corporate America to actually listen to social justice activists, we have to be willing to speak to and with them in their own boardrooms when the opportunities present themselves.  This is how change occurs, not antiseptically at think tanks and foundations but in the push and pull of ideas and arguments across all sectors of nonprofit, government and business – and perhaps most importantly in business.
For 11 years while I as CEO of Share Our Strength, I served on the board of Timberland, and the boot and apparel company (on whose board Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi served before me.)  It was a great learning opportunity for me, but also a chance to shape and influence an already socially conscious company to be even more so.  Darren Walker faces a taller order given Pepsi’s business interests in sugary soda’s and fatty snacks. But who better to help them shift toward a healthier and more progressive future?

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