What does winning on the PepsiCo Campaign mean?

Your top 5 questions answered

Chelsea Matthews headshot posted by Chelsea Matthews

After more than 6 years of campaigning on PepsiCo — undercover field investigations, hundreds of thousands of letters, countless actions, and your ongoing support — RAN has succeeded in moving one of the largest snack food companies in the world!

We are pleased to share that PepsiCo has announced a leading policy and actions to address the destruction of rainforests, the abuse of workers, and the exploitation of communities for Conflict Palm Oil. 

We’ve had a lot of questions about what this win means so we took a stab at answering your biggest questions!

1. What does this mean for forests and human rights?

PepsiCo has made a broad commitment to ensuring that the palm oil in its entire supply chain will not contain deforestation, peatland destruction, or human and labor rights abuses. Its policy applies to its entire global supply chain as well as the operations and supply chains of its suppliers at the company group level. This is a big deal! Because, going forward, any PepsiCo supplier found responsible for or linked to deforestation or exploitation even when it’s outside of PepsiCo’s direct supply, will still be held accountable. This will create leverage and accountability throughout the palm oil industry even when PepsiCo is not directly purchasing palm oil from the problematic source.

Even more significant is how PepsiCo also expects its own business partners to follow its policies at each company’s group level. This includes Indofood, the largest food processing company in Indonesia that makes PepsiCo’s snack food products for the entire region, and Indofood’s parent company the Salim Group. Indofood and the Salim Group have significant palm oil operations across Indonesia, on which labor exploitation, legal violations, and peatland clearance have been documented. PepsiCo’s approach will apply pressure on Indofood and the Salim Group to bring their supply chains in line with PepsiCo’s policies.

Additionally, PepsiCo has committed to improved human rights provisions and to play a more proactive role in the palm oil industry, including taking actions to address ongoing deforestation in Indonesia’s critical Leuser Ecosystem.

In total, these commitments will push other supply chain actors across the entire palm oil industry to prevent rainforest destruction, to intervene when destruction is found and to stop human rights abuses.

To learn more about the details of PepsiCo’s commitments, please see here.

2. Why did this take so long!? 6 years?!

Changing “business as usual” is a difficult task for companies of any size, from a mom-and-pop small business owner to giant corporations like PepsiCo. So it is completely normal for corporate campaigns to run many years.

When RAN launched its campaign on the Snack Food 20 for their use of Conflict Palm Oil in 2013, we first needed to raise awareness on the issue — companies and the public alike needed education on the impacts of Conflict Palm Oil production. By 2014 RAN had moved a significant number of the Snack Food 20 companies, but at the time PepsiCo stood out in the grouping as the company sourcing the largest volumes of palm oil but who had taken the least action. We knew in order to move the industry, we needed to move PepsiCo.

Over the years, we published compelling evidence to back up our demands, and kept the pressure on the snack food giant with the help of our supporter network. Together with our supporters, we did all kinds of creative pressure tactics, from office disruptions and protests, to confronting PepsiCo’s CEO in public spaces, to calling out the company on social media, delivering thousands of petition signatures and more. Meanwhile, the industry continued to move as more and more companies made commitments to end deforestation, peatland clearance and human rights abuses for palm oil.

All this resulted in a tipping point where PepsiCo was ready to take the necessary actions to address ongoing gaps in its policy and implementation plans, ultimately leading to negotiations with RAN and our partners OPPUK and ILRF and this campaign win. Although six years is a significant amount of time, especially for a relatively small organization like RAN, we were tenacious and never gave up. Once we pick a campaign target, we stay with it until we see the changes that are needed — one of the many things that makes RAN unique.

3. How’d you win?

You! People power pushed PepsiCo to realize it needed to take action, or risk further damage to its reputation. In the six years of the PepsiCo campaign, we’ve submitted hundreds of thousands of petition signatures and letters to the company, staged actions disrupting PepsiCo offices, contronted PepsiCo decision-makers in public spaces countless times, jammed PepsiCo’s brand on its social media channels, flooded PepsiCo phone lines, and exposed the company’s links to Conflict Palm oil through undercover investigations and high profile media coverage. For an overview of some of the key campaign actions that took place, check out our timeline here.

4. What does this mean for palm oil in PepsiCo products?

PepsiCo’s policy outlines its commitment to no deforestation, no peatland expansion and no exploitation and its action plan details how it will work to put this commitment into practice. But the reality is the palm oil industry is rife with issues that are beyond PepsiCo’s sole control. Palm oil supply chains are complex and so it will take time for PepsiCo to fully implement these commitments to ensure deforestation and human rights abuses are not in its supply chain. It will also require that the broader industry actors, including other brand companies, traders and producers, also work to accelerate action on their commitments in order to transform the industry to responsibly-produced palm oil.

Now that PepsiCo has announced a leading policy and has committed to drive change in the industry, its policy and new actions place it as a front-runner in the Snack Food 20 group of companies. We will be there to ensure that its policy results in real change on the ground. But we need you with us to hold PepsiCo, and others, accountable.

5. What’s next?

From the Amazon to the Congo Basin to the islands of Indonesia, these rainforests are as critical to the local and Indigenous communities and countless species that call them home as they are to the future stability of our global climate. But these rainforests are going up in smoke to make the products that fill store shelves all around the world.

That’s why we are now targeting some of the most influential multinational brands and banks pouring billions of dollars into the industries responsible for the destruction of global rainforests and the exploitation of its Indigenous Peoples and communities.

While the mega brands are responsible for driving huge demand for products made at the expense of forests, global banks provide the funding for such industries. Yet many of these companies have made commitments to protect forests. That’s why we must hold them accountable to their promises until we see real change on the ground. We must make doing business with companies that are complicit in deforestation and human rights abuses unacceptable, untenable, and unprofitable.

So sign up and stay tuned and we’ll tell you how you can help hold corporations accountable and Keep Forests Standing!