Student Activists Confront PepsiCo Executive on Conflict Palm Oil

posted by Rainforest Action Network

Screen_Shot_2016-04-25_at_5.11.31_PM.pngOn the same day Pepsi was targeted with a daring action in NYC, five student activists at Kansas State University (KSU) took action on their campus by publicly calling out a PepsiCo executive for the human rights abuses and rainforest destruction in the company’s supply chain. Six months ago, PepsiCo released an inadequate palm oil policy that contained a giant loophole the size of Indonesia. The policy still allows for the exploitation of Indonesian workers and violations of community land rights. Since this policy was released, RAN has been campaigning to get Pepsi to close these crucial policy gaps, but nothing has changed on the ground for the communities and workers who continue to feel the real impacts of PepsiCo’s demand for cheap Conflict Palm Oil.

The top five people who can make a real difference are the company’s CEO, Ms. Indra Nooyi, and four other executives and major shareholders including Dr. Mehmood Kahn who is the company’s Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of Global Research and Development. Dr Kahn also oversees PepsiCo’s global Performance with Purpose sustainability initiatives which are designed to enhance environmental, human and talent sustainability for the company.

Right now is the time to crank up the pressure on these key executives who sign off on PepsiCo’s flawed business model each and every day. And that is exactly what happened today when the five KSU students called Dr. Kahn out for the human rights violations in Pepsi’s supply chain during a Q&A session after a lecture he was delivering on KSU’s campus. At the end of his talk, activists jumped to the microphones to ask this:

“The production of Palm oil has been linked to child labor, forced labor, wage theft, and suppression of independent labor unions. In response to this crisis, right now people across the planet are making a stand in solidarity with these workers and calling on PepsiCo to stop exploitation now. As Chair of PepsiCo’s Sustainability Council, part of your role is to drive improvements in the practices of PepsiCo’s growers and suppliers. How will you ensure that the exploitation of workers in PepsiCo’s palm oil supply chain will stop? “

In response to their questions, Dr. Khan responded with PepsiCo’s standard, greenwashed answer, saying that PepsiCo has a responsible palm oil policy and a commitment to implement it by 2020. The activists both had a chance to respond to Dr. Kahn, stating that his answers were dis-satisfactory and that real leadership on this issue was still missing. The activists continued to call Dr. Kahn out on PepsiCo’s inaction until their microphones were turned off and the speaker asked to “move on”.

Dr. Kahn may not have wanted to take responsibility for the rampant human rights abuses that Pepsi is being called out for, but all of Pepsi’s top 5 executive can take collective action to move PepsiCo forward on Conflict Palm Oil if they choose to. Unfortunately they have not taken strong action yet.

RAN is collecting hundreds of photo petitions from activists all around the world who stand in solidarity with palm oil workers. We will deliver the photo petitions to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi at the company’s shareholder meeting next week. With your photo petition, we will continue to bring our message directly to top decision-makers: PepsiCo must take meaningful action to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil and human suffering from its products now!

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