Politics of Poverty

PepsiCo takes a stand for land rights

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Oxfam volunteers hold a banner reading "Caution: Ingredients may cause land grabs" outside of PepsiCo headquarters in New York City in October 2013, as part of the Behind the Brands campaign. Photo: Vasia Markides/Oxfam America

Consumer action convinces one of the world’s biggest food companies to commit to zero tolerance for land grabs.

Big news for those who care about the rights of rural and indigenous people around the world: After more than 272,000 people signed petitions and took action with Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign, PepsiCo, the world’s second-largest food and beverage company, committed to take steps to stop land grabs in its supply chain. This announcement comes on the heels of similar commitments made by Coca-Cola Company, another target of Oxfam’s campaign, in 2013.

What’s the campaign all about?

Land grabbing is a bitter secret in the sugar supply chains of some of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies. Poor communities across the globe are in dispute or even being kicked off their land, without consultation or compensation, to make way for huge sugar plantations. When families lose their land, they often lose their homes and their main source of food and income.

What did PepsiCo-agree to?

1. Commit to zero tolerance for land grabs

  • In addition to committing its vast global operations to “zero tolerance” for land grabs, PepsiCo will adhere to the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for all communities across its entire operations, requiring suppliers to do the same. The FPIC standard applied by PepsiCo will be consistent with the International Financial Corporation’s performance standards and will explicitly apply to any legitimate land tenure holders.
  • PepsiCo will incorporate FPIC requirements into appropriate mechanisms like its supplier code of conduct and guidelines and will ensure compliance through their existing processes.
  • PepsiCo will immediately embed detailed questions regarding land rights, developed with third-party expertise, into the PepsiCo Sustainable Farming Initiative, a recently launched program designed to evaluate farmers with whom PepsiCo contracts directly. This gives PepsiCo a means to connect with its direct farmer-suppliers on this important issue, and to evaluate the results to ensure reflection of the PepsiCo policy.

Why is this significant?

  • Following the Coca-Cola commitment, PepsiCo is only the second company in the food and beverage industry to adopt a zero tolerance for land grabs. While companies in the oil, gas and mining industry have committed to implementing FPIC, and other major food and beverage companies have begun to recognize this concept more thoroughly, these two companies are creating a sea change in an industry that does not typically directly own or purchase land to produce the products it sells. With two companies stepping up to zero tolerance, communities may see real change.

 2. “Know and show” risks related to land rights and land conflicts

  • Lifting a longstanding code of silence, PepsiCo has publicly disclosed the top three sourcing countries for its sugar cane (Brazil, India, and Thailand), palm oil (Malaysia, Indonesia, and Mexico), and soy (Brazil), as well as its top three suppliers (palm oil: Oleofinos, Aarhus, Wilmar; soy: Bunge; sugar cane: Sucden, Savola, TRR).
  • PepsiCo has agreed to conduct third-party social, environmental, and human rights impact assessments –specifically including impacts related to land and land conflicts—in its top sugar sourcing countries of Brazil and Thailand, in Mexico for palm oil, and in its coconut water supply chain in the Philippines, and will publish a summary of the findings from these assessments.

 Why is this significant?

  • Transparency is crucial for creating real change. As long as companies keep secrets about where and from whom they source their ingredients, it’s difficult for communities to engage with companies on issues affecting them—let alone to hold companies accountable.
  • New guidelines in the business and human rights arena require companies to do due diligence to ensure human rights are being respected in their supply chains. Impact assessments—conducted with full community participation—are an essential part of PepsiCo’s due diligence in understanding the risks of land conflicts.

3. Advocate for governments and traders to tackle land grabbing and to support responsible agriculture investment

  • PepsiCo has publicly acknowledged its “responsibility to take action and use influence to help protect the land rights of local communities.” It will join the Committee on World Food Security and support responsible land rights practices.

Why is this significant?

  • While no single company–even a company as big as PepsiCo—can stop land grabs, major food and beverage companies have a tremendous amount of influence with traders, suppliers, with governments in the countries where they do business.  They can bring others along towards respecting communities’ land rights by imposing strong standards, the effects of which could bring benefits for the men and women who grow our food

What’s next?

Oxfam will monitor PepsiCo’s progress and implementation, as we have with Coca-Cola (see the Behind the Brands roadmap on land issues). We’re also calling on other top food and beverage companies to join the soda giants in these commitments. If Pepsi and Coke can do it, surely others can too.

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