Crystal Pepsi ‘90s-Themed Product Launch Concert Disrupted by Palm Oil Protest

For Immediate Release: August 10th, 2016
Contact: Blair Fitzgibbon, 202-503-6141

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Crystal Pepsi ‘90s-Themed Product Launch Concert Disrupted by Palm Oil Protest

Rainforest Action Network and the Illuminator Project stage an ‘urban intervention’ at NYC rock concert venue

New York — For the third time in a week, PepsiCo’s highest profile product launch in years was hijacked by campaigners determined to expose the company’s continued lack of action to eliminate ‘conflict palm oil’ connected to environmental destruction and labor abuses from its products. This time, activists projected massive images showing the impacts on PepsiCo’s snack foods on forests, endangered orangutans, elephants and children forced to work on oil palm plantations in Indonesia on the side of Terminal 5, the venue for Crystal Pepsi’s ‘Summer of ‘92’ throwback concert. 

“A nostalgia for rollerblades and fanny packs is fine, but it’s crystal clear PepsiCo needs to open its eyes and realize we are no longer in the 1990’s. Deforestation, wildlife extinction and labor abuses are no longer acceptable costs of doing business,” said Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaigner Director with Rainforest Action Network. “Since crystal pepsi first launched in 1992, millions of acres of precious Indonesian rainforest has been destroyed for palm oil, but 25 years later the company continues to source palm oil from laggards that are clinging to business as usual instead of producing truly responsible palm oil.” 

PepsiCo is the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world and uses hundreds of thousands of tons of the controversial ingredient palm oil in its products each year. Three years ago PepsiCo was named a member of the ‘Snack Food 20’ group of companies targeted by RAN due to their use of Conflict Palm Oil connected to rainforest destruction, human rights abuses and massive climate pollution. Since then, more than half of the Snack Food 20 brands, each of them multibillion dollar international companies in their own right, have publicly committed to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products, leaving PepsiCo as the largest and most influential company yet to do so.

On Monday, the campaigning group SumofUS released a viral spoof makeover video of PepsiCo’s iconic 1990’s ad featuring Cindy Crawford which has garnered over a half million views in the first 24 hours that uses steamy, dark humor to single out the company for its continued refusal to take action to fix the problems in its palm oil policy and supply chain. Also this week, thousands of RAN supporters have barraged PepsiCo on social media with a mockup brandjam of the Crystal Pepsi logo featuring images of endangered orangutans and elephants and child laborers trapped inside a Crystal Pepsi bottle. 

PepsiCo has issued revisions to its palm oil procurement policy at least twice, but the company continues to exempt PepsiCo branded products produced in Indonesia, made by its joint venture partner Indofood, from being covered by its commitments. Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and the expansion of palm oil plantations is identified by many as the largest cause making Indonesia the global epicenter for deforestation in the world today as well as one of the planet’s largest sources of carbon pollution contributing to climate change. 

This June, RAN, the Indonesian labor advocacy organization OPPUK and the International Labor Rights Forum released an investigative report titled “The Human Cost of Conflict Palm Oil: Indofood, PepsiCo’s Hidden Link to Worker Exploitation in Indonesia.” The report reveals the findings of field investigations and interviews with dozens of workers completed on two palm oil plantations owned and operated by PepsiCo joint venture partner and palm oil giant Indofood. Key findings include child labor, exposure to highly hazardous pesticides, payment below the minimum wage, long-term reliance on temporary workers to fill core jobs, and use of company-backed unions to deter independent labor union activity. The report was followed up by a 3 minute animated video short called The Human Cost of Conflict Palm Oil which tells three representative stories of the kinds of abuses palm oil laborers face on plantations.

Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: