Pepsi contributes to human slavery and forest devastation

The biggest threat to the rainforest right now: palm oil plantations are clear-cutting the rainforest so they can expand. And the world’s largest global snack food company could help end that with one piece of paper.

PepsiCo buys staggering amounts of conflict palm oil every week. Unlike other companies (like Kellogg’s and Mars), it’s okay with buying oil that comes from rainforest destruction. If PepsiCo committed to buying responsible palm oil, it could help reshape the entire global supply chain for the better.

The timing is perfect. Major companies like Kellogg’s have just adopted new palm oil commitments. And a hot new TV show just shined the media spotlight squarely on PepsiCo.

We all have a stake in stopping the destruction of the rainforest. Deforestation in Southeast Asia has made Indonesia the third largest carbon emitter on the planet. The orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, and countless other endangered species are being pushed the brink of extinction. Meanwhile, the remaining forests of Indonesia are storing as much carbon dioxide as the entire earth emits in a year, meaning that allowing the destruction to continue could detonate a carbon bomb.

Victory is more than possible. Working together with partners like the Rainforest Action Network and Forest Heroes, we’ve already forced Kelloggs and others to change their ways, causing a huge shift in the global palm oil supply chain. And similar organized consumer pressure has dramatically slowed the rate of deforestation in Brazil.

PepsiCo is also under increased pressure right now. Just last Sunday, a new American TV show devoted the second of two episodes to palm oil — and urged their viewers to call PepsiCo and demand action. It’s been flooded by consumer letters, emails, and online pressure ever since.

Tell PepsiCo: The game is up. It’s time to adopt a global responsible palm oil policy.

The palm oil industry can be brutal. Many workers are lured into plantations on false pretenses, and have their passports and ID’s confiscated. Investigations have found workers being beaten by “enforcers”, locked in tiny barracks at night, and not allowed to leave for any reason. Many workers are forced to spray hazardous chemicals with no protection, and the web of contractors and sub-contractors allows the corporations responsible to avoid legal responsibility.

That tangled supply chain can be used to our advantage. Many palm companies are bulldozing the rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia for more plantations. Many snack food companies, including PepsiCo, eventually buy that oil. In between, however, there are only a few main distributors — the 6 gigantic middlemen of the palm oil industry. Those distributors are the keys to success.

When SumOfUs members called out Kellogg’s and others, those companies put pressure on their suppliers, the palm oil distributors. In response, Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader with a 45% share of the industry, is now in the process of switching to conflict-free palm oil.

Now we need to pressure the remaining 5 main distributors to follow suit (especially Cargill Inc.) — and PepsiCo is a key customer for a number of them. If PepsiCo commits to buying conflict-free palm oil, then those distributors will have to follow suit — or lose the business of the world’s largest international snack company.