* Pepsi pledge follows similar action by Coca-Cola
* Oxfam campaigning directed at top 10 food and drink firms
* Land rights are sensitive subject in sugar-grower Brazil
* Pepsi ranked 4th in Oxfam survey of responsible brands
March 18 PepsiCo, the world's No. 3 food
and beverage company, committed on Tuesday to take steps to stop
illegal land seizures by suppliers of raw materials such as
sugar and palm oil as it tries to improve social and
The pledge follows a similar commitment by Coca-Cola
last year and comes in response to a campaign by development
group Oxfam that is pushing top food and drink companies to
improve ethical standards among suppliers in poor countries.
The industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent
years over sourcing of raw materials, attracting criticism on
issues ranging from child labour on cocoa farms to the impact of
palm oil plantations on rain forests.
PepsiCo said in a statement it had worked with Oxfam and
other external experts on a new policy to prevent suppliers
displacing any legitimate landowners.
As demanded by Oxfam, PepsiCo also gave details about the
amount of soy, palm oil and cane sugar it buys and the main
countries that it sources those raw ingredients from, including
Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, India and Thailand.
"These supply chains are incredibly opaque. The companies
themselves don't even know where the sugar is coming from. It
forces them to ask where their suppliers are getting it from,"
Chris Jochnick, director of Oxfam's private sector work, said.
Oxfam said PepsiCo would audit its top sugar supplier Brazil
in 2014, followed by Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines by the
end of 2016, with a particular focus on making sure local
communities give consent before their land is sold for farming.
PepsiCo also pledged to source all of its cane sugar from
sources certified as sustainable by 2020 and said it would work
with suppliers in Brazil and Thailand to that end.
Native land rights are a sensitive subject in Brazil and
tensions between farmers and Indians have run high since the
government evicted 7,000 farmers and their families from an
Indian territory last year, starting violent protests.
Oxfam has ranked the top 10 food and drink companies
according to their policies on issues it deems as critical to
sustainable agriculture: the rights of women, small-scale
farmers and farm workers, as well as water, land, climate change
PepsiCo came joint fourth with Mondelez International
in the latest ranking, behind Nestle,
Unilever and Coca-Cola, while General Mills
replaced Associated British Foods in last place.
Jochnick said PepsiCo's commitments would help boost its
scores for ethical behaviour on land and transparency issues,
and Oxfam would follow up to make sure it implements changes.