How PepsiCo is complicit in racial injustice

PepsiCo is a multinational Big Food corporation that profits off of practices that exploit BIPOC communities and perpetuate systemic racism and white supremacy. 

Big Food corporations like PepsiCo exacerbate and profit off of food apartheids, commonly known as food deserts, which are predominantly low-income and BIPOC communities that lack access to a grocery store that carries affordable and nutritious food due to a combination of structural barriers which are a direct result of systemic and structural racism (1). By crowding grocery stores in BIPOC communities with unhealthy food and drink, PepsiCo contributes to the racial health inequities seen in Black and Latinx communities (2).

PepsiCo also utilizes targeted marketing practices aimed towards primarily Black and Latino communities, which means that BIPOC communities see more advertisements for Pepsi products than white communities, which in turn leads to racial health inequities and contributes to the previously mentioned food apartheids in BIPOC communities. For example, Black children and teens were shown twice the amount of sugary drink TV ads than white children and teens (3). Additionally, Hispanic Institute president Gus West said, “Of course, we’re responsible for what we eat and drink . . . but we’re also subject to the effects of massive advertising and misleading promotional campaigns — especially on our children and the poor,” (4). These targeted marketing practices by PepsiCo, especially aimed at BIPOC youth, paired with limited access to quality healthcare for Black and Latino communities, exacerbates racial health inequities.    

Beyond contributing to racial health inequalities, PepsiCo has often engaged in discriminatory hiring practices, labor abuses, and other human rights violations. A 2012 study revealed that PepsiCo discriminated in their hiring processes by requiring criminal background checks for Black employees (5). Additionally, PepsiCo has relied on child labor, provided hazardous labor conditions, and exploited workers through their partnership with their palm oil supplier for years (6). These human rights violations and discriminatory practices reinforce racist and white supremacist ideals. For UC Berkeley to partner with this racist corporation goes against student and community beliefs, not to mention the values that UC Berkeley claims to uphold.

UC Berkeley’s partnership with PepsiCo violates campus values of equity while also supporting a racist multinational corporation, making UC Berkeley implicit in the harms that PepsiCo inflicts on society, and especially on BIPOC communities. Therefore, UC Berkeley must cut ties with PepsiCo permanently and indefinitely.

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