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Barbara Brooks Kimmel: Who wins the culture audit, Coke or Pepsi?

Which of these companies do you think has the higher integrity culture, Coca Cola or PepsiCo?

Let’s start by defining what we mean (and don’t mean) by a high integrity culture.

A high integrity culture is not the credo written on the wall in the corporate headquarter. It’s not a corporate social responsibility program or how philanthropic a corporation chooses to be. And it’s not solely what employees think of their organization.

A high integrity culture…

Has a high integrity vision that defines its purpose, and that vision is practiced and reinforced daily.

Has high integrity values that serve not only as a guideline but as a practice for all employees. HR supports these values at all times by hiring people who share the corporate values. In fact all silos play a role in maintaining the high integrity values.

Has high integrity leadership who understands and meets the needs of all its stakeholders, not just shareholders through its consistent practice and reinforcement of its high integrity vision and values.

Starbucks offers an excellent example of high integrity values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo.
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
  • We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.

So who has the higher integrity culture — Coca Cola or PepsiCo?

Trust Across America has been measuring the corporate culture of public companies for over seven years through its FACTS Framework.

Unlike other culture surveys that rely heavily on employee input, FACTS (an acronym) measures the quantitative indicators or dimensions of high integrity — Financial stability, Accounting conservativeness, Corporate governance, Transparency and Sustainability.

And in our analysis Pepsi wins.

Out of the five indicators, PepsiCo scores significantly higher in three.

While relying on employee surveys alone may be helpful in measuring culture, surveys don’t tell the full story and can be easily gamed. In fact, in the case of Coke and Pepsi, their Glassdoor reviews, for example, are almost identical.

Why should a high integrity culture matter?

In our ongoing research at Trust Across America, all signs point to high integrity cultures being more profitable.

To all those companies whose leaders think culture is soft, intangible, immeasurable or doesn’t matter, you are ignoring the FACTS at your own risk.

And perhaps that’s why Pepsi scores higher than Coke. It may boil down to Indra Nooyi’s leadership priorities.


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2017 she was named a Fellow of the Governance & Accountability Institute, and in 2012 she was recognized as one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International.

This post is adapted from an article that originally appeared on Trust Across America.

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