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.

For more info, please visit our Resources page.

What UCB’s PepsiCo contract means for Berkeley’s sustainability goals

PepsiCo’s products and production strongly contribute to a myriad of negative environmental impacts through plastic pollution and deforestation. Surpassed only by Coca-cola, PepsiCo is the second highest producer of plastic pollution globally. PepsiCo’s plastic pollution footprint is 137,000 tonnes per year, enough to cover 22 football pitches with plastic every day.

Only 9% of plastics are recycled as this vast quantity of plastic consumed outpaces the recycling system. Sixty percent of plastic waste is exported and burned in incinerators which not only releases more emissions, but also exposes often vulnerable communities to many toxins. Due to the degree the world’s recycling capacity is overrun, the only responsible way forward is to reduce and reuse.

 PepsiCo’s 2025 sustainability goals include increasing recycled content in their plastics packaging to 25% and reducing virgin plastic content in beverage packaging by 35%, but they have only reached 4% and 1% of these targets respectively. Using more recycled plastic will not solve the pollution problem or the growing international governance problem recycling is creating. 

Moreover, PepsiCo, according to Greenpeace, is responsible for deforestation due to its continued reliance on rouge palm oil producers. Suppliers to top brands such as PepsiCo cleared over 1,300 square kilometers of Southeast Asian rainforest since the end of 2015. While many companies, including PepsiCo, claim to be working to lessen deforestation caused by a reliance on palm oil, they often depend on whether suppliers issue a statement claiming no deforestation in assessing their success. Yet, unfortunately, even supposedly reputable palm oil suppliers often cannot or do not monitor their entire supply chain and thus there is no guarantee of sustainable sourcing. 

Considering the environmental degradation Pepsi products leave in their wake, removing them from UC Berkeley’s campus is a logical, necessary response which not only aids in meeting Berkeley’s zero-waste goals, but provides the opportunity for the campus to take leadership as a prominent global university.

Public health impacts of UC Berkeley’s contract with PepsiCo

One of the major reasons we are demanding for the termination of the contract between PepsiCo and UC Berkeley, is because of the largely unhealthy products that PepsiCo markets towards students on campus. The 85% shelf space currently detailed in the contract requires that UC Berkeley reserves 85% of its space in campus dining facilities to hold a variety of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). There have been a multitude of studies that demonstrate the adverse health effects of regular SSB consumption.

One 2011 study in particular showed that drinking 1 or more SSBs per day leads to an 83% increase in risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, compared to individuals who consume less than 1 SSB per month (1). SSBs are also the only source of food/drink that has been shown to have a direct cause and effect relationship with obesity (2). Continuing to retail such beverages on campus opposes the University Health Services commitment to support healthy eating via its Be Well at Cal program (3).

Currently, UC Berkeley’s on-campus dining options are stacked with PepsiCo options that primarily consist of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and unhealthy snacks. The abundance of SSBs on campus as a result of the soda marketing contract between UC Berkeley and PepsiCo poses an alarming health risk for both students and faculty and goes against UC Berkeley’s commitment to keep retail “shelf space [stocked] with ‘Healthier Beverages’ at 70% or greater, and ‘Sugar-Sweetened and Less Healthy Beverages’ at 30% or less,” (4).

“Strides for equity and sustainability are impeded by UC Berkeley-PepsiCo partnership” Daily Cal excerpt

This article was originally published on February 11, 2020 and was written by Mia Silverberg and Selena Melgoza. For a link to the full article, see the bottom of this post.

Since 2011, UC Berkeley has been actively endorsing one of the top consumer plastic polluters on the planet and the poster child for big food monopolies: PepsiCo. PepsiCo is an extensive contributor to the climate crisismarine plastic pollutionlabor exploitationrainforest deforestation and malnutrition. Under our current pouring rights contract, 85% of all food and beverages in campus dining areas and vending machines must be owned by PepsiCo.

How is this possible? PepsiCo owns everything from Gatorade to Cheetos, Doritos to Sabra hummus, Quaker Oats to Lay’s, KeVita kombucha to Tostitos tortilla chips and nearly everything else you see at The Golden Bear café or the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union vending machines. With sugar and palm oil as major ingredients, PepsiCo compounds existing food insecurity by negatively affecting marginalized students who are unable to afford or access healthier alternatives. Our partnership is a direct barrier to accessible nutrition and demonstrates what seems like apathy for the health of underrepresented communities.

This apathy seems to be apparent in the corporate relations of PepsiCo, which has long partnered with Indofood palm oil plantations. Indofood utilizes child labor and exposes workers to harmful pesticides that are illegal in the United States. It was not until PepsiCo was exposed for links to such abuses that it cut ties with Indofood in July 2019. The irony that our university proclaims social justice and equity is inescapable.

Beyond rescinding campus claims of social justice, the PepsiCo partnership nullifies every single one of UC Berkeley’s sustainability goals. PepsiCo has contributed to the deforestation of more than 25,000 acres of Indonesian rainforest for palm oil and is a giant fossil fuel and plastic polluter in the world, at 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 2.3 million metric tons of plastic per year. There is hypocrisy in our claims for campus sustainability; we pledge zero waste by 2020 and carbon neutrality by 2025and yet endorse a monopoly of environmental injustice. As a representative of ASUC Senator Sylvia Targ’s Office of Unsustainable Partnerships, we refuse to accept any claims of progress so long as our administration maintains this partnership.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

“Why UC Berkeley needs to reevaluate its pouring rights contract with PepsiCo” Daily Cal excerpt

This article was originally published on August 28, 2019 and was written by Daniela Solis and Selena Melgoza. For a link to the full article, see the bottom of this post.

If we truly care about the health of our campus community and care to uphold UC Berkeley’s reputation as a leader in sustainability, it’s time to start thinking about why a PepsiCo sponsorship does not meet our vision of fostering a sustainable, healthy campus for all. 

At UC Berkeley, students are the target market for one of the world’s largest beverage corporations, PepsiCo. The drawstring bag or lanyard you received at Calapalooza? You’ve guessed it: prime real estate for PepsiCo marketing. Ultimately, you’re a walking advertisement for a corporation whose products are notoriously unhealthy and unsustainable.

The Bay Area is a national leader in paving the future for sustainability and health within the food systems. The city of Berkeley alone has a history of ongoing initiatives: one of the first national curbside recycling programs, the first city to pass a citywide sugar-sweetened beverage tax, and most recently, a reusable cup program to be implemented in September. Despite these efforts, UC Berkeley falls short in its sustainability in part because of its ties with PepsiCo.

As UC Berkeley approaches year nine of a 10-year pouring rights contract with PepsiCo, let’s reconsider whether we should pursue a renewal with the corporation or other similar corporations based on UC Berkeley’s principles of community.

To read the rest of the article, click here.