Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, one of the most powerful women and minorities in business, is being aggressively pressured by a racial justice group to quit President Trump’s advisory council.
Seven execs have left Trump’s manufacturing council this week amid outrage over the president’s response to the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Color of Change, a racial justice organization, is urging its 1 million members to hold Pepsi and its huge array of products “accountable” if Nooyi doesn’t step down from Trump’s manufacturing council.
“A boycott is very much on the table,” Rashad Robinson, the Color of Change’s executive director, told CNNMoney. “You can’t say buy our products by day and then by night put your brand on policies that put us in harm’s way.”
Nooyi is the only woman of color on either of Trump’s councils. The Pepsi CEO is also considered a trailblazer for Indian-Americans and women alike. Nooyi, who grew up in India, has been a vocal champion of diversity during her decade atop Pepsi and was ranked by Fortune as the second most powerful woman in business.
But Color of Change suggests that Nooyi’s role on Trump’s council undermines her track record on diversity.
“You’ve got a high-profile CEO who has talked about diversity and equality who is enabling Trump,” Robinson said.
Pepsi did not respond to a request for comment on Color of Change’s campaign.
Earlier this year, Color of Change launched campaigns urging Disney CEO Bob Iger and former Uber boss Travis Kalanick to sever ties with Trump. Both execs eventually did quit Trump’s business council. After pressure from Color of Change and others, PayPal said Tuesday it’s working to cut off service to groups that “promote hate” such as white supremacists and Nazis.
Over the past few days, Color of Change has also ramped up the pressure on Walmart and Campbell Soup, two other consumer-facing brands whose CEOs are sitting on Trump’s business council.
Consumer products companies like Pepsi have to listen when activists threaten to mobilize their followers against them. Pepsi has 22 different billion dollar brands, including Gatorade, Tropicana, Quaker Oats, Mountain Dew and Tostitos.
“We’re going after public-facing brands. These are companies that black people shop at and employ black people,” Robinson said.
Nooyi has commented on the violence in Virginia, sending a tweet on Sunday — before Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier kicked off a series of CEO cutting ties with Trump. She said she was “heartbroken” over the violence in Charlottesville. “Hate and intolerance are a betrayal of what we stand for as Americans,” the Pepsi CEO said.
The risk of a customer backlash may have factored into the decision late Monday by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank to walk away from Trump.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on Tuesday that Trump “missed a critical opportunity” with his initial reaction to the violence in Charlottesville. McMillon said Trump’s remarks on Monday, in which he denounced white supremacists by name, “were a step in the right direction.”
He has not commented about Trump’s incendiary comments during a Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower.
Trump said “there’s blame on both sides” of the Charlottesville violence. “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said.
The comments created instant outrage and led Richard Trumka, one of the country’s most powerful labor union leaders, to announce his resignation from the manufacturing council.
“CEOs who remain on Trump’s committees will need to clearly communicate that the participation does not indicate support for his various positions and programs,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Activists are now ramping up the pressure on Pepsi, Campbell Soup, Walmart and even on Wall Street firms.
Make the Road New York, which focuses on poor and working class communities of color, said it plans to deliver more than 400,000 petitions calling on JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Blackstone founder Stephen Schwarzman to dump Trump.