When reading publications like The Grocer, I’m often struck that when colleagues talk about sustainability, collaboration is seen as a vital component in achieving success. What is often overlooked, though, is the effort, determination, and resources needed to get meaningful partnerships off the ground, ones that not only deliver financial rewards, but offer mutual benefits for managing water, fossil fuels and other finite materials.

The creation of partnerships to deliver against ambitious sustainability goals is a focus of my day-to-day role at PepsiCo. Take our partnership with Cambridge University, which led to the creation of the revolutionary crop management system, i-crop, designed to help farmers produce more by using less water.

“The i-crop system helps farmers produce more by using less water”

This partnership plays an essential role in helping PepsiCo deliver its 50 in 5 programme, which is targeting a 50% reduction in carbon and water impacts of our key crops by 2015. The combination of PepsiCo’s business acumen, the technical and academic expertise of Cambridge University Farms and a joint passion for a more sustainable approach, delivered a significant breakthrough.

And our focus on collaboration does not end in the fields back in 2008, we worked with Asda to identify where we shared distribution routes and therefore where we could share fleet vehicles. As a result, we took 333,000 miles off the road in 2008 and 540,000 in 2009.

Similarly, we have worked with suppliers to share sustainability best practice. Our internal Resource Conservation programme (ReCon) has for years shared best practice on water, energy and waste reduction across PepsiCo sites globally. The results have been impressive with the UK the programme delivering a 4.5% energy reduction at our sites in 2012, and a total water reduction of 24% since 2008. These successes persuaded us to share ReCon with key suppliers, and since 2011 we’ve helped them achieve their own reductions in waste, energy and water use. Amcor Flexibles, our largest supplier of packaging, were enthusiastic recipients and following the training were able to move to zero waste to landfill in just three months.

We’ve also benefited from external expertise. For example, water company United Utilities has partnered with us to design a water treatment plant at our Walkers Skelmersdale site. We’ve been able to recycle our water on-site and reduce the demand for fresh water by more than 5,000 litres every hour.

Around the world, PepsiCo is engaged in partnerships that allow us to do things better, cheaper and with less impact on the environment. We are working with universities, utility companies, governments, NGOs - anyone who shares our agenda. One of the most important partners to help us become a truly sustainable and successful 21st-century company is our peer companies and customers - you.

I hope you agree and invite you to join me in finding innovative and collaborative solutions to the pressing problems articulated throughout this issue of The Grocer and elsewhere.

Martyn Seal is sustainability director for PepsiCo Europe