PepsiCo’s low palm oil standards

by Joao Talocchi

May 22, 2014

Rainforest juxtaposes with rows of cut trees from the recent clearance of orang-utan habitat inside the PT Wana Catur Jaya Utama palm oil concession in Mantangai, Kapuas district, Central Kalimantan. PT WCJU is a subsidiary of BW Plantation.

© Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

These last few months have been anything but dull.

The IPCC launched a series of reports outlining the present and future risks of climate change and the need for drastic emissions reductions.

NASA announced oceanic and climate patterns similar to the ones that cause the 1997 El Nino, which led to extreme climate events around the globe. That year, Indonesia saw one of its worse droughts and consequent fire seasons.

Speaking at the University of Malaya, inMalaysia, President Obama said, “What youve seen is huge portions of tropical forests… being shredded because of primarily the palm oil industry”

If we are serious about avoiding the worst of climate change, deforestation must stop now. The risk of another strong El Nino only ups the stakes.

The palm oil industry has the power to make that change. But it has to go from being a major cause of the problem to being a part of the solution.

Since Greenpeace launched the Tiger Challenge, all but one of the 7 US companies named as “Non-forest friendly” have taken good steps to clean their supply chains of palm oil linked to forest destruction. These include Procter & Gamble, which, after pressure from thousands of concerned consumers, announced a revised and much stronger palm oil commitment.

The one company that hasn’t taken similar steps is PepsiCo, which uses palm oil in its many brands of chips.

Pretending to catch up with the others, PepsiCo recently announced a new Forest Stewardship Policy and Palm Oil Commitment.

WhilePepsiCos commitment includes measures that go beyond the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, such as theprotection of high carbon stock forests and all peatlands, it still does not guarantee that its supply chain will be free fromdeforestation and social conflict. It lacks astrong commitment to full traceability, a prohibition of the use of fire, or a demand for similar commitments fromits suppliers. And it does not lend clear support to small, local producers.

Most importantly, PepsiCo’s commitment does not include an implementation plan. The company claims that this is because of the proprietary nature of its procurement practices and other sensitive information. Isn’t that convenient?

An implementation plan doesn’t need to spell things out in fine detail, and it definitely doesn’t need to give away proprietary information. It simply needs to clearly say what steps, and under which timelines, the company will take to map and verify compliance to its own policy and how it will deal with problematic suppliers.

It’s now up to PepsiCo to prove it is serious about its promises. It can do this by immediately updating its commitment and starting to map, audit, and verify its supply chain. It can also make a good faith effort to cut ties with any supplier associated with forest and peatland destruction or social conflicts.

In the meantime, Greenpeace will continue to monitor the expansion of the palm oil industry and how companies are implementing their No Deforestationpolicies. This will include continuing to demand consumercompanies like PepsiCo break their links to forest destruction.

Of course, we’ll keep you updated. And we will continue to count on your support.

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