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PepsiCo uses a whole lot of palm oil — 450,000 tons each year, to be precise — and it will not be “largely free” of rainforest destruction and peatlands conversion until 2016.

The policy was announced just last week and promises that its palm oil will be: “sourced exclusively through suppliers who are members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil” and “confirmed to have originated from responsible and sustainable sources.”

PepsiCo’s new commitment is a supposed build upon previous standards, which were focused on some sustainability when it comes to palm oil sourcing.

“Although the vast majority of palm oil is produced sustainably, there are some instances where tropical rain forests are being cleared for palm plantations,” the new PepsiCo policy states.  “PepsiCo is opposed to illegal or irresponsible deforestation practices. While we are committed to the RSPO and its process and standards, we recognize that in some regions of the world, additional measures may be necessary.”

While this sounds great, according to Monga Bay, “some environmental activists are expressing reservations about the commitment, asserting that the safeguards are weaker than those set by other consumer products giants like Unilever and Nestle.”

Organizations like Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Union of Concerned Scientists have expressed concern with the extent of PepsiCo’s new commitment.

“While it is encouraging that PepsiCo has acknowledged it has a problem with conflict palm oil, the company’s recent commitments fall short in several key areas,” stated Gemma Tillack of Rainforest Action Network. “For PepsiCo to meet consumer expectations, it must adopt a binding, time bound policy with an action plan to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its products that includes full traceability of palm oil back to its source and verifiable safeguards for human rights, forests and peatlands.”

Greenpeace campaigner, Joao Talocchi, said: “Consumer companies such as P&G, Unilever, and Nestle have already committed to policies that – if fully implemented – will guarantee their products will become free from deforestation. There’s no reason PepsiCo can’t follow suit.”

While we will have to wait and see if PepsiCo will go all the way eventually, we are pleased that the commitment will at least provide some improvements.
Image source: Wagino 20100516/Wikimedia Commons