PepsiCo has seen scorn, outrage, and righteous anger after co-opting Ieshia Evans iconic photo at a Movement for Black Lives protest, combining it with the anti-Trump resistance movement, and packaging it up in an out of touch and insulting video starring Kendall Jenner in an attempt to brand itself as aligned with the current outrage in the US.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is not only an advisor to Donald J. Trump, she makes $29.8 million a year selling junk food produced with links to child labor, human rights abuses, and deforestation. Because of Pepsi’s abysmal record, Ms. Nooyi herself has been the target of protests twice in November, and again yesterday in Dallas.
We at RAN would like to remind Ms. Nooyi - and PepsiCo - that a real protest movement, with hundreds of thousands of activists worldwide, has been calling on her to eliminate the child labor, human rights abuses, and destruction of rainforests linked to PepsiCo’s palm oil policies. And, unlike this ill-advised, “feel good” ad campaign, we’re not going to stand down until real change happens for impacted communities and palm oil workers.
As part of that protest movement, activists crashed Ms. Nooyi’s speech at the Tate Lecture Series at Southern Methodist University in Dallas on Tuesday evening. As Ms. Nooyi was speaking, activists dropped a banner in the auditorium reading: “Indra, No Child Labor For Pepsi Profits. Cut #ConflictPalmOil”
Ms. Nooyi was obviously taken by surprise in the middle of her speech, as she was confronted with this huge banner hanging from the balcony directly in front of her. People in the audience began to turn around in their seats to check it out, causing a stir throughout the whole crowd. In addition to dropping the eye catching banner, activists also left postcards around the venue with information about Ms. Nooyi’s company’s failure to address the human rights and labor abuses in its supply chain. Thousands of people attending the event learned about PepsiCo’s true business practices - the ones that Ms. Nooyi failed to mention during her speech. PepsiCo earns billions by turning Conflict Palm Oil, one of the world's most controversial commodities, into snacks and sugary fountain drinks sold across the globe.
Ms. Nooyi and PepsiCo know that Indofood––PepsiCo’s partner and the sole maker of PepsiCo branded products in Indonesia––is an extremely controversial company, with documented cases of exploitation and child labor, deforestation, and land conflict on Indofood plantations. But PepsiCo continues to churn out inadequate paper commitments that leave major loopholes for its controversial partner Indofood.
PepsiCo may want to play at protest with its slick advertising and celebrities - but real activists are ready for the fight. We’ll continue to demand real change, and to do so with real protest as loudly as we need to in order to get the point across - it’s time PepsiCo stop putting its profits ahead of people and the planet. It’s time that PepsiCo Cut Conflict Palm Oil. Join us in telling PepsiCo: We won’t stand for Corporate Exploitation for Corporate Profit.
UPDATE: Pepsi has pulled the ad and apologized to Kendall Jenner. Palm oil workers and communities destroyed by Pepsi's palm oil policy continue to await an apology and/or compensation for damages.