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

Published May 20, 2014

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2014) – PepsiCo released a new palm oil sourcing commitment, 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 good 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, areas 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 deforestation efforts had demonstrated “little commitment” to procuring palm oil from deforestation-free sources. Its commitment 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 commitments, including Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Procter & Gamble.

May-Tobin noted that PepsiCo’s new commitment – which aims to procure all its palm oil from deforestation-free sources by 2016 – also protects peatlands.

However, the commitment lacks explicit efforts to trace palm oil back to the source, ensuring that it is deforestation-free. Additionally, the commitment would be stronger if PepsiCo included independent verification of how suppliers are complying with their commitments.