Rainforest Action Network campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action.
On Monday, activists stormed PepsiCo's office in Manhattan to demand the snack food giant stop deforestation and exploitation. Watch the live stream of the action here.
Activists line up across the building lobby, holding signs and dressed as palm oil workers. Photo: Rae Breaux
For years, PepsiCo has sidestepped its massive Conflict Palm Oil problem. Time and time again, PepsiCo has been exposed for driving rainforest destruction, worker exploitation and climate pollution for the palm oil used to make its snack foods. Yet the company has failed to take the actions necessary to stop these devastating impacts to people and the planet.
Activists hold a banner in front of the building. Photo: Rae Breaux
During the lunchtime rush, activists disrupted the flow of PepsiCo employees in their lobby, while holding signs and chanting. Anyone entering or exiting the building wouldn’t have been able to ignore the protesters.
Activists shout out palm oil worker stories of hazardous working conditions. Photo: Rae Breaux
Activists disrupted business as usual to stand in solidarity with palm oil workers — who work under exploitative conditions — by amplifying their harrowing stories. Taking turns, the activists shouted out descriptions of the harsh working conditions palm oil workers face. The specific stories shared were parts of testimonies given to RAN by workers on Indofood plantations, PepsiCo’s Indonesian business partner.
“This is the story of a woman named J who works on a palm oil plantation of PepsiCo's business partner, Indofood. J works spreading toxic pesticides but is not given the proper protective gear. Her skin burns, her lungs are irritated and some days she has trouble seeing at the end of a shift. This is hazardous working conditions!”
In response, the group shouted back:
“This Is How PepsiCo Profits!”
After police arrived, activists moved onto the sidewalk in front of the building to continue calling out PepsiCo for its ties to Conflict Palm Oil.
The protest continued in the front of the building. People walking past were given flyers explaining why protesters were there. Photo: Rae Breaux
The protest continued through the lunch hour, getting the attention of many people including the building owner. Photo: Rae Breaux
Everyday that PepsiCo fails to take adequate action to fix its Conflict Palm Oil problem is another day that vital rainforests fall and workers are exploited in the name of cheap snack foods. We won't let PepsiCo escape its responsibility.
As the world's largest globally distributed snack food company, it is time PepsiCo do what's right: break its ties to Conflict Palm Oil.
Today, PepsiCo announced yet another palm oil pet project that woefully fails to address the scope of its Conflict Palm Oil problem. Now PepsiCo is patting itself on the back despite the fact that it continues to source this destructive oil and do business with some of the dirtiest players in the industry like Indofood — only further driving rainforest destruction, worker exploitation, and land grabbing.
The company’s PR machine is making significant investments to convince PepsiCo’s consumers and investors that it is addressing its Conflict Palm Oil problem. But a closer look shows that the snack food giant’s actions fall very short from what’s needed to make change on the ground, where deforestation and exploitation continue.
For PepsiCo to adequately address its Conflict Palm Oil problem, it must take the following actions:
1 - Make substantial investments into ending the use of Conflict Palm Oil in its products sold worldwide, now. PepsiCo continues its attempts to greenwash its links to deforestation and human rights abuses with the announcement of pet projects but the fact is the company continues to cut costs by sourcing Conflict Palm Oil to make its products.
2 - Require its joint venture partner Indofood to align its policies and practices with the Free and Fair Labor Principles and ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ standards across all group and third-party operations, or cancel deals with the company if it does not. Acknowledging the exploitation found in Indofood’s operations is not enough and PepsiCo must set binding time-bound conditions that Indofood must meet to remain a joint venture partner.
3 - Advance respect for human rights by requiring all suppliers and business partners to uphold the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and provide remedy for stolen lands and livelihoods starting with Indofood and REPSA. PepsiCo can begin to take action by publicly listing its grievances, what actions have been taken to address them, and setting clear, public thresholds for exiting relationships with non-compliant suppliers and business partners like Indofood.
4 - Improve its own palm oil policy to set a clear deadline and implementation plan for achieving the ultimate goal of an independently verified ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ palm oil supply chains. PepsiCo has fallen behind its peers in raising its standards to the new global benchmark for responsible palm oil — it must go beyond sourcing RSPO oil and ensure that the implementation of its policy means that global PepsiCo products are free of Conflict Palm Oil.
5 - Play a positive role in securing land rights, improving livelihoods and protecting forests and peatlands, including the critical Leuser Ecosystem. PepsiCo must enforce an immediate moratorium on the destruction of forests and peatlands for palm oil throughout its supply chains, or it will be complicit in the ongoing destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem and other critical forest and peat landscapes.
Only when these actions are taken by PepsiCo will tangible changes for workers, communities and forests be realized. Until it does so, pet projects, half-measures and greenwash will continue to fail to address the size and scope of the PepsiCo’s Conflict Palm Oil problem.
PepsiCo, stop trying to sidestep your enormous Conflict Palm Oil problem. Rainforests continue to fall and workers continue to be exploited for the palm oil in your products and in the operations of your notorious business partner Indofood. Your half-measures are not enough. You must take robust action to end the destruction.
If you're not on social media you can also call the company at 1 (800) 433-2652.