By any measure, 2014 was a turning point in the international movement to reform the notoriously destructive palm oil industry. Many of the sector’s biggest players announced groundbreaking global responsible palm oil policies that go above and beyond the inadequate standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and pledge to eliminate deforestation, human rights abuses and climate pollution from their palm oil supply chains.
While major work remains to truly implement these newly achieved commitments into real change on the ground, there also remain major corporate laggards who have so far failed to raise their standards to the new global benchmark for responsible palm oil production set by their peers. Chief among these holdouts is PepsiCo, a company that uses so much palm oil annually it could fill soda cans full of the stuff stretching around the earth at the equator four times over.
You may have seen this past week that PepsiCo, parent company to popular brands including Doritos and Quaker Oats, issued a strongly worded, defiant public response to a hilarious and creative ad produced by the group SumOfUs that spoofs PepsiCo’s own Crash the Superbowl ad campaign and has quickly gone viral on social media.
PepsiCo’s statement calls efforts to cut controversial palm oil from its products a "public relations stunt, focused on fiction rather than facts." The company claims that its palm oil policies are 'effective' and went so far as to state: "It is no surprise that SumofUs' continual mischaracterizations of our palm oil commitments are patently false and run counter to the positive reception our policies have received from expert organizations in this arena."
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) would would like to take this opportunity to share for the record a joint communication being made public for the first time now that was delivered privately to PepsiCo more than five months ago from multiple leading expert organizations in the palm oil arena. The communication outlines in specific detail the ways in which PepsiCo's current palm oil commitments fall short and offers recommendations for addressing the gaps it identifies.
While many of its major snack food brand peers have adopted leading commitments to verifiably cut the ties between the palm oil in their products and deforestation, human rights abuses and climate pollution, PepsiCo has continued to refuse to take the steps necessary to ensure its customers that the palm oil it uses is truly free of these egregious abuses.
To summarize, experts continue to call on PepsiCo to strengthen its current palm oil commitment in the following ways:
Require its suppliers to uphold human rights, workers’ rights and resolve conflicts in accordance with international human and labor rights laws and norms; not develop on peatlands regardless of depth; prohibit burning; and include support for smallholders across all operations in its global supply chain;
Commit to tracing the palm oil it sources to the plantations where the oil palm fruit is grown (it currently only commits to tracing to the mill) and undertake independent verification of its supply chain to ensure it is not purchasing from companies trafficking conflict palm oil.
Immediately assess the risks in its Indonesian and Malaysian supply chains given that these are the regions with the highest rates of deforestation, conflict, and labor rights violations caused by Conflict Palm Oil.
Clearly outline an implementation plan that includes time-bound performance goals and reporting, auditing and third-party verification measures.
RAN first alerted PepsiCo to the serious problems in its palm oil supply chain over a year ago and offered to work with the company to find solutions and draft a comprehensive, time bound responsible palm oil policy that does not rely on outsourcing the company’s stated values to the spotty track record of the RSPO. This offer still stands.
PepsiCo is the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world and is a major user of Conflict Palm Oil. But it continues to fall farther and farther behind its peers by refusing to close major gaps in its commitments and adopt a truly responsible palm oil policy.
PepsiCo uses an immense amount of palm oil, enough palm oil every year to fill Pepsi cans full of it to circle the earth four times at the equator. Put another way, the tropical land base needed to feed PepsiCo’s global appetite for palm oil each year is a quarter million acres of land, most of which used to be rainforest.
PepsiCo’s customers around the planet have clearly communicated their demands for the company to take action, and its peers – including half of the Snack Food 20 companies targeted by RAN - have shown it can be done. The only thing standing in the way of PepsiCo doing the right thing and taking a leadership position on this urgent issue is the company’s refusal to act.
PepsiCo’s continued unwillingness to take responsibility for the consequences of the palm oil in its supply chain is shocking. While more and more of its peers have acknowledged the crisis created by Conflict Palm Oil production and engaged with experts like us to adopt binding policies to root out the problem, PepsiCo continues to fry its chips and fill its products with palm oil sourced from unknown plantations.
Meanwhile, deforestation is on the rise, conflicts between companies and communities are escalating and reports of child and forced labor are increasing. PepsiCo must break its ties to deforestation and human rights violations in its supply chain, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia where the risks of rainforest destruction and abuse are high.
PepsiCo’s excuse? The company thinks it has done enough. Given the scale of this crisis, this couldn’t be further from the truth. PepsiCo may feel comfortable being in the middle of the pack among its peers and not feel the need to take a leadership position on this issue, but we can’t allow it.
As a globally recognized brand with an immense international reach, we believe PepsiCo’s weak commitments and half measures are unacceptable and at odds with the company’s publicly stated values. We know that PepsiCo can step up and be a leader. Under pressure, PepsiCo made a public palm oil pledge in May of 2014, but the commitment has critical gaps that must be addressed before it meets the new global benchmark for responsible palm oil procurement.
PepsiCo must now take action to identify and eliminate suppliers who are driving these impacts on the ground. It must succeed in stopping the bulldozers and abuses in its supply chain. PepsiCo must be able to demonstrate to its customers that it can be trusted to provide products not connected to Conflict Palm Oil.
Hard fought efforts to achieve truly responsible palm oil, by breaking the link between the common foods we eat every day and the appalling practices of displacing Indigenous communities, employing child labor, destroying tiger and orangutan habitat and setting fire to carbon rich peatlands to produce palm oil, has begun to turn a corner. We are achieving major milestones every month and the biggest palm oil companies in the world are starting to move.
But the forests are still falling and we are not there yet. PepsiCo has a crucial role to play in getting us there. PepsiCo is one of the largest users of palm oil that has still refused to move and the brand’s status as a pervasive cultural icon adds that much more weight and influence to its actions. Tropical rainforests, endangered wildlife and exploited laborers need PepsiCo to start taking this issue seriously and to take immediate steps to create real change.
With your help we will hold PepsiCo to account. We will push this global snack food and beverage giant to take a leading role in driving the changes that are so desperately needed.
Rainforest Action Network and other advocacy groups including SumOfUs.org will not back down until PepsiCo tackles its Conflict Palm Oil problem. To become more involved with our campaign, check out RAN's Palm Oil Action Team. Our Palm Oil Action team is a group of committed activists volunteers, working around the world to address Conflict Palm Oil in their communities. To learn more or join the Palm Oil Action Team, click here.
Happy Halloween! I hope you’re enjoying the holiday more than Pepsi is today. See, the marketing folks over at Pepsi have been trying all week to promote their holiday hashtag #LetsGetSpooky. You, all of us at RAN, and thousands around the world know what’s really spooky -- the deforestation and human rights abuses associated with PepsiCo’s use of Conflict Palm Oil.
It’s spooky, it’s scary, it’s downright evil stuff. And right now, Conflict Palm Oil is in PepsiCo’s snacks which are sold in over 200 countries.
We’ve been telling Pepsi to cut this scary ingredient for over a year, and it just isn’t listening or taking action to break its ties to deforestation and human rights abuses. So we decided to take drastic measures with a “Pepsercism.” It’s not quite an exorcism, but we certainly hope it will help get the message to Pepsi to banish the evil which is Conflict Palm Oil.
Check out the video of Strawberry the orangutan and I attempting a “Pepsercism,” and then please share this video on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #LetsGetSpooky to really give Pepsi a scare.
Let’s have some fun with this for Halloween!
Thanks for all you do.
In the past two weeks we have made history. We have seen the biggest climate rallies take place on the streets of over 150 countries. People are united by one truth: climate change is happening, it is affecting communities now and time is running out to take action to avoid the tipping point to dangerous climate change.
Momentum is building and people are united in efforts to take on the biggest polluters: commodity producers that are destroying the ecosystems that regulate our climate and the fossil fuel industry.
One year ago, RAN exposed the role that 20 of the world biggest snack food companies play in driving climate change through their use of Conflict Palm Oil. Since then half of these companies including Nestle, Unilever, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Hershey's, ConAgra Foods, Smuckers, Dunkin Brands and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts have adopted new commitments to cut the destruction of rainforests and carbon rich peatlands and social conflict from their supply chains; some companies including PepsiCo and Hormel Foods have taken initial but inadequate steps; and others including Kraft, Heinz, Campbell Soup, Nissin Foods and Toyo Suisan, are laggards that continue to bury their heads in the sand refusing to take action.
One thing is clear, time is running out for PepsiCo and the Snack Food 20 companies to cut Conflict Palm Oil from their products.
It's time for companies to put new commitments into action. Deforestation rates in Indonesia, where a majority of palm oil is grown, are the highest ever and continue to rise. We simply can not allow palm oil companies to bulldoze the ecosystems that our societies survival depends upon. The Snack Food 20 companies must stop buying palm oil from the companies responsible for the carbon bombs released into the atmosphere when rainforests and peatlands are cleared to make way for new plantations.
The Snack Food 20 must step up and address their Conflict Palm Oil problem. They need to demonstrate that they have stopped the bulldozers in their supply chains and have eliminated suppliers who are unwilling to be part of the global just transition to a low carbon economy.
The sands are shifting but we need to keep up the pressure on the palm oil sector, PepsiCo and the Snack Food 20 until we see real change on the ground.
Image via Carlos Quiles
Do you read the ingredients of everything your child eats? I try to. As a mom, grocery shopping is no simple task. I'm constantly reading labels, on the hunt for nasty additives that could harm my one year old's health. Is the can my coconut milk is packaged in BPA-free? Refined sugar in his granola bars? Pesticides on his blueberries? The list goes on. Since palm oil has become one of those nasty additives in everything, often disguised by complex ingredient names, I've been on a mission to educate other parents about Conflict Palm Oil: what it's in, why it's so bad for our planet and our health, and how we can use our powerful voice as parents to get it out of our children's food.
Since launching a hard-hitting campaign on 20 of the largest snack food companies in America (dubbed "the Snack Food 20") a year ago, RAN and our partners have inspired some pretty monumental shifts in the palm oil sector. Half of the Snack Food 20 companies have now adopted new commitments to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil and RAN is working hard to turn those commitments into real change on the ground in Indonesia and Malaysia. But a small handful of companies still lags behind, including PepsiCo, which has adopted a new commitment but failed to include the key safeguards needed to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil for good.
PepsiCo is the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world and while it has begun to take steps, it has yet to adequately address its Conflict Palm Oil problem. Which is why this morning a group of moms and kids gathered at Bruce Park playground in Greenwich, CT - the hometown of PepsiCo CEO Ms. Indra Nooyi - for a colorful stroller brigade. The three mothers held a Conflict Palm Oil teach-in and marched together holding colorful visuals to send a powerful message to Ms. Nooyi. After the event the moms delivered more than 355,000 petitions from supporters in 122 countries to PepsiCo’s current global headquarters in White Plains, NY. Check out the photos, and send an email to PepsiCo in support.
This event was led by three local mothers named Harriet, Susan and Debra. They have been active members of RAN's global Palm Oil Action Team (POAT) since the launch of our Last Stand of the Orangutan campaign last Fall. Just last week they sent a powerful open letter to Ms. Nooyi via a dozen influential mommy bloggers requesting immediate action from Ms. Nooyi prior to the historic People's Climate March in NYC September 21.
The stroller brigade and open letter are evidence of the growing number of mothers who've decided that enough is enough: if we're going to stop climate change, we must take matters into our own hands. As the moms state in their open letter to Ms. Nooyi:
“We are three mothers who live in your community. We are witnesses, first hand and in our own communities, to the impacts of climate change. Our thoughts, concerns, fears and hopes - are for our children, for their future and their now. We are reaching out to you in regards to the historic leadership opportunity you face right now on the issue of climate change and palm oil. We are writing as fellow mothers, daughters, and working women. We are representatives of and speak for thousands of mothers around the country - neighbors, friends, relatives, as well as Rainforest Action Network members, who share our concerns that climate change is a direct threat to our children’s future.”
Their open letter, and the massive support behind it, highlights the growing movement around the globe calling on PepsiCo to address its Conflict Palm Oil problem and the role it plays in climate change. Add your voice and demand change from PepsiCo here.
We'll continue to push by joining an even larger contingent of mothers and fathers in NYC on September 21 as we march for our children's future in the historic People's Climate March. Join us! Contact us at email@example.com for more details.
Thank you to Susan Rutman for all the photos in this piece.
We launched a campaign to turn up the heat on Pepsico and its use of Conflict Palm Oil. The goal has been to takeover its darkly ironic #LiveForNow advertising campaign that encourages consumption while ignoring human rights abuses, land grabs, and deforestation. Supporters like you have been doing just that by tweeting pictures from events and anywhere they spot the logo of Pepsico’s flagship brand Pepsi, calling out the truth.
Our “#LiveForNow Shouldn’t Mean Destroying Tomorrow” site is built for people like you to use to crank up the pressure on PepsiCo. Pictures coming in from people across the US and the globe will make it clear to PepsiCo that our movement is building and we won’t stop until it ends its use of Conflict Palm Oil.
Remember, take a selfie with a Pepsi sign and tweet it out with the hashtag #LiveForNow and we’ll feature you on the site too!
We know your pressure is working. PepsiCo is one of the 5 laggards companies we called out in April who have refused to take effective steps to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil, but other companies are moving. This week, palm oil laggard Conagra Foods announced a new commitment to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil. Together we can push PepsiCo to do the right thing and fix the weaknesses in its Palm Oil Commitment. So keep up the pressure! Start now by sharing our spoof site with your friends and family on Twitter and Facebook.
On September 21, New York City will see the biggest climate march in history.
Be a part of it!
You know the deadly effects of climate change: more storms like Superstorm Sandy in New York, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. More droughts like the one right now in California, and fires like the ones that have been engulfing the Western U.S. every summer. Farmland drying up and sea levels rising, which means hunger and displacement for many of the world’s poorest people.
Now more than ever, we need to show decision-makers that climate change is a planetary emergency, and that we can't wait any longer for serious action to stop climate chaos. That's why next month, when President Obama and other world leaders gather for a crucial climate summit at the United Nations, the global climate movement will greet them with the largest climate march in history.
Are you in?
Rainforest Action Network will be there for this historic event for the global climate movement. We'll also be there to send an important message: to stabilize the climate, we have to challenge corporate power. We have to challenge PepsiCo to stop sourcing Conflict Palm Oil that’s destroying the rainforests that help to regulate our climate. We have to challenge TransCanada: they won’t build the Keystone XL pipeline on our watch.
You know that winning the fight against global warming means challenging corporations that put profit before people and the planet. And we need you to bring that message to the streets of New York.
This summit kicks off truly crucial series of meetings, with a real chance for binding international emissions targets by the end of 2015. We can’t afford business as usual -- and we know that’s exactly what our elected officials will deliver unless we show them we mean business. Let’s seize our chance to shape history.
Come be a part of it.
P.S. On September 21, the action goes well beyond New York City, with mobilizations across the country and around the world. Can’t make it to New York? Be part of an event near you.
On May 20, thousands of us united in a Global Day of Action to tell PepsiCo to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil. PepsiCo responded by announcing a Forestry Stewardship Policy and Palm Oil Commitment, but neither of these new promises are strong enough to guarantee that Pepsi’s use of palm oil is not driving rainforest destruction, species extinction and human and labor rights abuses.
PepsiCo is the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world - the company uses enough palm oil every single year to fill Pepsi cans that would stretch around the Earth 4 times - but it has fallen out of step with its peers and still has no truly responsible palm oil purchasing policy.
Instead of cutting Conflict Palm Oil from its products, PepsiCo continues to push its darkly ironic #LiveForNow campaign. PepsiCo is telling people not to worry about climate change, the fate of the last wild orangutans and children that are forced to work in slave-like conditions on oil palm plantations and just #LiveForNow!
It’s our job to tell PepsiCo that #LiveForNow isn’t good enough. This summer we’re turning up the heat.
PepsiCo is pushing its #LiveForNow propaganda out through it’s “Real Big Summer” marketing campaign which includes Pepsi sponsored concerts and events across the US. We need YOU to crash Pepsi-sponsored events and deliver the message that #LiveForNow shouldn’t mean rainforest destruction, climate change and human rights abuses.
Because of you PepsiCo has made some progress. With your help we’ve convinced the snack food giant to go beyond just sourcing Roundtable on Sustainable Palm certified palm oil. However, PepsiCo’s policies lack a commitment to trace its palm oil back to the plantations where the oil palm fruit was grown and to verify that its suppliers operations are free of forced and child labor, conflicts with Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and clearance of rainforests and peatlands. It also lacks a time bound action plan, so it’s hard for its consumers to know what steps it will take to clean up its palm oil supply chain.
This isn’t good enough. PepsiCo must adopt a policy that is inline with what forests, the people that rely on them and our planet need and demand that its suppliers, like Cargill, do the same.
With your help we’ll convince the global snack food giant to take the steps that will guarantee that its products - like Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay Chips - will be free of Conflict Palm Oil for good.
Help us turn up the heat on PepsiCo this summer. Sign up to let us know you’re in.
Today, food and beverage giant PepsiCo declared that it will no longer accept land grabbing in its global supply chains. Land grabbing occurs when Indigenous Peoples or local communities are kicked off their land so corporations can make profits from growing palm oil, sugar, and other crops.
This announcement comes after significant consumer pressure from Oxfam's Behind the Brand Campaign and PepsiCo investors who called on the company to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for land grabbing.
The adoption of its new Land Policy is a positive step forward for PepsiCo, but we know all too well that actions are stronger than words. PepsiCo must take real action to deal with its land grabbing problem. Given that land grabbing is also a symptom of PepsiCo's deforestation and Conflict Palm Oil problems, it must now make the next bold move and implement a responsible palm oil sourcing and no deforestation policy.
PepsiCo is a huge company, operating in over 200 countries and earning $65.6 billion in revenue each year. Its well known brands, including Pepsi, Doritos, Ruffles, Cheetos and Quaker, are found in homes around the world. RAN has exposed the dangers of Conflict Palm Oil and the fact that it ends up in chips, cookies and granola bars made by PepsiCo. PepsiCo sources its palm oil from companies like Cargill, Wilmar and AAK in Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico.
Despite the growing concern over Conflict Palm Oil, PepsiCo has not adopted a responsible palm oil policy to remove deforestation and social conflict from its global supply chain. Instead of taking responsibility for its supply chain, the company relies solely on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO continues to certify companies that are destroying rainforests and peatlands and causing high greenhouse gas emissions. It also has a poor track record of enforcing its human and labor rights standards, and resolving disputes between certified companies and local communities over land grabbing.
PepsiCo cannot rely on the RSPO.
To address these problems fully, PepsiCo must join other leading consumer companies and adopt responsible palm oil sourcing and no deforestation policies and cut Conflict Palm Oil from its products.
You can help pressure PepsiCo to tackle its deforestation and Conflict Palm Oil problems next.
On May 7th, PepsiCo will need to face up to its shareholders who will be casting their vote on a deforestation resolution at its annual general meeting. With your help, we’ll convince PepsiCo to do the right thing for the forests and the people that depend on them for their survival. Add your voice here.
Banner photo via C.J. Chanco Inset photo via Oxfam