WASHINGTON, March 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
C oca-Cola and PepsiCo's efforts to stop illegal land seizures by
sugar suppliers in Brazil have made progress but Coke has had
the greater impact and its competitor needs to do more, a World
Bank conference heard this week.
The food and beverages giants committed to 'zero tolerance
for land grabs' and vowed to clean-up their supply chains as
part of charity Oxfam's 'Behind the brands' campaign.
Coke and PepsiCo were among companies criticised in 2013 for
links to land disputes, with Oxfam saying nearly 800 large-scale
land deals by foreign investors had taken 33 million hectares -
almost the size of Germany - from poor communities since 2000.
This prompted anti-poverty campaigners to call for major
multinational companies to do more to stop indigenous
communities around the world from being forced from their homes.
In light of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo's commitments, Oxfam
commissioned John Wilkinson, an agribusiness specialist at Rio
de Janeiro's Federal Rural University, to conduct an independent
review of the companies' efforts in Brazil.
He found the two companies' commitments were "an important
step", according to an Oxfam report of Wilkinson's findings
presented at the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference in
Washington D.C. this week.
However Wilkinson concluded while Coca-Cola's investigation
programme was "comprehensive in scope", PepsiCo's approach
"(This is needed) particularly around its scope, its
stakeholder engagement, and disclosure," he was quoted in the
Oxfam report, adding that PepsiCo recognised it needed to go
further in Brazil.
PepsiCo did not respond to requests for comment while
Coca-Cola had no direct comment on the Oxfam report but
highlighted the company's policy to be proactive on human and
workplace rights in its supply chain and the communities where
LAND RIGHTS RISK
Land is critical for smallholder farmers and indigenous
people globally but the majority in developing nations lack
secure rights despite living or working there for generations.
Farmers are particularly vulnerable in developing nations
where governments, keen to encourage private investment, allow
investors to buy, lease, or develop land, creating tension.
For while state authorities grant official title, in doing
so companies may infringe on communities' customary land rights.
"When companies don't address these conflicts appropriately,
they can even lead to violent outcomes like the murder of Berta
Cáceres in Honduras," Oxfam researchers noted, referring to the
fatal shooting of the high-profile land campaigner last March.
According to the Oxfam report, the companies chose different
ways to assess and clean up their supply chains.
Coca-Cola conducted a baseline study which looked at land
rights as well as forced and child labour. It has committed to
conduct 28 such studies by 2020 to create a new database.
PepsiCo initially decided to conduct audits which examined
land as well as some social, environmental, and human rights
issues. The company committed to publish a "summary of critical
findings" from each audit.
Oxfam researchers Gustavo Ferroni and Chloe Christman said
Coke made a "strong effort" in scope and quantity of interviews
and explained how to ensure suppliers followed its land policy.
But they recommended Coke commit to a public, time-bound
plan to show how it will address findings of its baseline study.
The report welcomed PepsiCo's recognition of needing to do
more in Brazil but recommended a shift from an audit-based
approach to a full assessment of human rights and land risks.
The researchers also urged PepsiCo to embark on due
diligence on human rights in Thailand, the Philippines and
(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith;
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