2016: Driving PepsiCo towards Change

posted by Ashley Schaeffer Yildiz

2016 has been a busy year for the Conflict Palm Oil organizing program. When we kicked off the year, we decided to really ramp up the pressure on PepsiCo. At that point, RAN had been campaigning against PepsiCo for two years, and we knew we had to take our pressure to the next level to convince the company to stand up for critical forests, carbon-rich peatlands, communities’ land and livelihoods, human rights, and globally important ecosystems like the Leuser Ecosystem. Here is a timeline of some of the biggest highlights of 2016:

February 2016

  • Palm Oil Activists in San Francisco confronted PepsiCo at Super Bowl City by projecting images of deforestation onto major landmarks across San Francisco, and educating Super Bowl fans about PepsiCo’s ties to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests, species extinction, the abuse of workers and communities, and climate change.


RAN staff and volunteers demonstrating at the entrance to Super Bowl City in downtown San Francisco.

March 2016

  • As PepsiCo attempted to brand its products as “healthy” and “sustainable” at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, RAN was there to expose the truth: human and workers’ rights violations, species extinction and rainforest destruction are not healthy for people or the planet. RAN delivered hundreds of petitions from people in the natural food industry calling on PepsiCo to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chain.


RAN’s J Chavez, Shannen Casey and Kelsey Baker set up a table at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim.

  • Over 30 allied organizations spanning the globe partnered with RAN on a Global Solidarity Action to stand in #SolidarityWithPalmOilWorkers and send a message directly to PepsiCo’s CEO Ms. Indra Nooyi. Activists around the world took photo petitions to pressure PepsiCo to take action, and eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chain. Check out the Facebook photo album and compilation video of all the powerful solidarity photos we generated!


Food Chain Workers Alliance joined RAN & over 30 organizations around the world in a Global Solidarity Action demanding that PepsiCo take action to get forced and child labor out of its supply chain.

April 2016


Activists collected photo petitions in front of PepsiCo’s Dallas Earth Day exhibit to stand in solidarity with palm oil workers.

May 2016

  • Dallas area activists were able to infiltrate PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay’s private corporate event and expose the truth behind PepsiCo’s palm oil problem.

  • At PepsiCo’s Annual General Meeting on May 4th, RAN’s Forest Program Director Ginger Cassady hand-delivered over 600 photo petitions to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, making sure she knows that we hold her accountable for PepsiCo’s flawed business model.


June 2016

  • RAN released a new report titled, The Human Cost of Conflict Palm Oil: Indofood, PepsiCo’s Hidden Link to Worker Exploitation in Indonesia,” revealing that PepsiCo’s business partner, Indofood, is violating the fundamental rights of workers on its palm oil plantations. In summary, PepsiCo is refusing to address its supply chain in Indonesia, where palm oil workers are being deprived of basic human rights – workers deserve the right to a living wage, a safe and healthy work environment and a future for their children. Read the executive summary and sign the petition here.

  • Shortly after the report, RAN released a video, exposing what really is in PepsiCo’s snack foods: palm oil produced with modern day slavery, child labor, and worker and human rights abuses.


August 2016

Starting in August, we escalated further. We began hunting down PepsiCo’s biggest and most expensive advertising campaigns—from new product launches, to online marketing campaigns, public speaking events and college campus recruitment fairs—and called out the company for its refusal to take meaningful action to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its products.

PepsiCo prides itself on it’s “Performance with Purpose” model. But these past few months have proven that PepsiCo is still not “performing with purpose” when it comes to its palm oil supply chain.

  • We brought our campaign to PepsiCo’s doorstep—the Global Headquarters in Purchase, NY—and increased the pressure on PepsiCo to take responsibility for its impact on the rainforests and global climate, critical endangered species like the Sumatran orangutan and elephant, and the families who live and work there.

We ran this billboard for several weeks in August & September along Hwy 1 in Greenwich, CT—located in Fairfield County and the hometown of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.


We put hundreds of these posters in community spaces around PepsiCo’s headquarters, and used them to engage hundreds of people at local Food and Wine events, farmers markets and SUNY Purchase campus


We also circulated hundreds of the posters in Spanish to reach a more diverse community around PepsiCo’s HQ

  • We crashed the re-launch party of PepsiCo’s 90’s throwback drink, Crystal Pepsi, as well as the company’s ad campaign. Slick marketing and 90’s nostalgia can’t hide the conflict in PepsiCo’s palm oil supply chain, which we made crystal clear at pepsiunclear.com, exposing the truth of what is really inside PepsiCo’s products: deforestation and human and labor rights abuses.

With the help of a team of palm oil activists, we let PepsiCo know that modern day slavery and rainforest destruction are not “where it’s at.”
September 2016
  • Palm oil activists saturated New York City with posters and signs exposing PepsiCo’s use of Conflict Palm Oil.


If you’ve been in New York, you may have seen these across the city.

  • An international coalition including Rainforest Action Network, SumOfUs, Wildlife Asia, and Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), together with local volunteers and supporters, delivered a quarter million signatures to PepsiCo’s Purchase, NY headquarters in a 10 foot Pepsi bottle. Watch the video of the petition delivery here!


You, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed our petitions and supported the campaign, already know about the Conflict Palm Oil in PepsiCo’s supply chain. You’ve stood with the 3.5 million palm oil workers to demand PepsiCo adequately address the problem.

  • RAN partners with student activists and begins the first of several campus recruitment disruptions, where students interrupted Pepsi recruiters on campus to say: “We won’t work for rainforest destruction, species extinction, or human rights and labor abuses. We won’t work for Conflict Palm Oil.”


Activists delivered a letter to the Pepsi recruiter and stood next to the company’s table during a Yale networking event with signs educating students on PepsiCo’s workplace values.

October 2016

  • PepsiCo, and others in the Snack Food 20, put a so-called ‘sustainable’ palm oil label on their products, but this unfortunately does not mean that the palm oil PepsiCo sources is truly responsible. Rainforest Action Network, Indonesian labor rights advocacy organization OPPUK, and International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) lodged a formal complaint against palm oil giant Indofood, PepsiCo’s Joint Venture Partner, with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the leading certifying body of palm oil. This complaint comes from multiple cases of documented labor abuses on Indofood plantations. Now is the time for all RSPO members, including PepsiCo, to ensure that the certification system upholds its standards.

  • Campus Recruitment Disruptions continued across the country, with students calling out and confronting PepsiCo executives at schools in Oklahoma, California, Connecticut and New Jersey.


OSU students prepare to deliver a letter to a PepsiCo recruiter on campus.

  • RAN and our Executive Director, Lindsey Allen, are featured in the film Before the Flood, which is now the most viewed documentary in history. In the film, Lindsey explains the problem with Conflict Palm Oil and how its production is linked to increased climate pollution. PepsiCo and other palm oil laggards are directly named in the film.

November 2016


RAN Activists at the Outlook Leadership Conference in Arizona, after confronting PepsiCo CEO Al Carey.

Over the course of the three years of this campaign, PepsiCo has failed over and over again to take meaningful action and address its Conflict Palm Oil problem. PepsiCo’s customers around the planet have clearly communicated their demands for the company to clean up its act, and its peers have begun to show that it can be done. PepsiCo must demand that its suppliers—regardless of where their operations are in the world—halt the expansion of palm oil at the expense of forests, our climate and the rights of local communities and workers. We’re reaching the tipping point in our efforts to transform the way that palm oil is produced—join us in calling on PepsiCo to finally make a stand and Cut Conflict Palm Oil!