Pride and palm oil: PepsiCo calls for big brand sustainability involvement to attract smallholder producers

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

PepsiCo believes that the involvement of major food and beverage brands in palm oil sustainability initiatives is crucial to attract smallholder producers. ©Getty Images
PepsiCo believes that the involvement of major food and beverage brands in palm oil sustainability initiatives is crucial to attract smallholder producers. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Palm oil, Rspo, Pepsico

Food giant PepsiCo believes that the involvement of major food and beverage brands in palm oil sustainability initiatives is crucial to attract smallholder producers and make a bigger impact.

PepsiCo has been actively involved in the sustainable palm oil scene for several years, including participation in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Shared Responsibility Task Force​ since its inception back in 2019.

“There is no doubt that the role that international companies further down in the food supply chain making end-products that directly reach consumers can play [in the acceleration of] sustainable palm oil uptake,”​ PepsiCo Senior Director for Positive Agriculture Emily Kunen told the floor at the recent RSPO RT2022 event in Kuala Lumpur.

“The presence and recognition of international brands can provide the smallholder producers with a significant sense of pride, as they can see their products going global and being part of an international food basket, which increases the attraction for them to use sustainable palm oil.

“Therefore it is very important for these downstream players from PepsiCo to Nestle to Cargill to be an active part of these initiatives, not just to help in terms of funding and engagement but also to increase participation.”

Strategies to bring in as many smallholder palm oil producers as possible was a hot topic of discussion at this year’s roundtable event, with many discussion sessions dedicated specifically to the topic.

“It is really important to work with local industry bodies and palm oil companies that are already familiar with the nuances of the local sector, as well as have those local relationships,"​ she added.

"This is core in order to set and drive agendas that truly resonate with, apply to and can benefit local communities – there is no point in trying to apply an international strategy wholesale.”

Shared responsibility tips and tricks

For the RSPO, Shared Responsibility refers to players across the entire palm oil value chain, including food and beverage manufacturer brands, being actively involved in advocating for sustainable palm oil, with the stress being that this responsibility does not fall solely on the shoulders of producers, suppliers or NGOs.

“Agriculture is central to businesses such as PepsiCo, being a food an beverage company, so there is no denying the role everyone in the supply chain plays in delivering sustainable ingredients for consumption,”​ Kunen said.

“All the products we put on shelves from chips to drinks depend greatly on the producers and traders and all the players upstream in the supply chain, so we have the responsibility to help mitigate supply risk as well.”

She urged more downstream international names in the sector to recognise this responsibility and scale up their roles in the sustainable palm oil sector, offering some advice for better collaboration with industry partners on this.

“It is critical to know your suppliers and supply chain very well, as understanding all the nuances behind those relationships is what will help brands to recognise the real opportunities,”​ she said.

“It is also super critical to ensure that any projects or initiatives undertaken are holistic in nature to ensure that the benefits are long-term, and can sustain even in an ever-changing environment.”

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