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Pepsico’s New Palm Oil Policy Marks Major Improvement, But Other Companies Are Going Further, Science Group Says



WASHINGTON (May 20, 2014) – PepsiCo has released a new palm oil sourcing policy, which could help the company reduce its contribution to tropical deforestation and global warming, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“PepsiCo produces a lot more than soda” said Calen May-Tobin, an analyst with UCS’s Tropical Forests and Climate Initiative. “Palm oil is in many of its products, from Quaker Oats to Grandma’s Homestyle cookies, PepsiCo’s announcement that it’s joining so many other companies in improving how it sources palm oil is excellent news, but it could do more to ensure that it is delivering on its promise.”

Palm oil is used in everything from food and fuel to deodorant and cleaning agents. In many cases, new palm oil plantations displace tropical forests and peatlands that store massive amount of carbon in the soil.

UCS recently scored the palm oil sourcing commitments for 30 consumer companies, including PepsiCo. The report found that PepsiCo’s previous policy had demonstrated “little commitment” to procuring palm oil from deforestation-free sources. Its policies at the time earned it a score of 33.7 out of 100. PepsiCo reports that it buys around 450,000 metric tons of palm oil annually for producing its snack food. It takes an area roughly the size of New York City to produce that much palm oil.

In recent months, several leading companies have adopted new palm oil policies, including Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Procter Gamble.

May-Tobin noted that PepsiCo’s new policy – which aims to procure all its palm oil from deforestation-free sources by 2016 -- includes a strong commitment to protecting forests, including forests that store particularly large amounts of carbon, and peat lands.

However, he cautioned that Pepsi’s policy could be stronger if the company committed to doing business only with palm oil suppliers that are 100 percent deforestation-free. As it stands, some palm oil suppliers are selling deforestation-free oil to more responsible companies while continuing to deliver destructively-sourced oil to other markets.

The policy also lacks an explicit commitment to trace palm oil back to the source to ensure that it is deforestation-free. It’s also not clear, based on the new policy, if PepsiCo will commit to independent verification of how suppliers are complying with their commitments.


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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