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By Duane D. Stanford
PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) dismissed as a “stunt” a social-media video posted by environmental activists challenging the snack maker’s reliance on palm oil in Doritos.
The clip, which was released by SumofUs.org as a spoof of a Doritos commercial, alleges that PepsiCo’s palm-oil use destroys rain forests and kills animals. After the ad gained a following online, PepsiCo shot back yesterday, saying its policy on the ingredient is sound and the video distorts the truth.
“This latest public-relations stunt, focused on fiction rather than facts, does nothing to foster positive dialogue or effect positive change,” the Purchase, New York-based company said in a statement. “We find our policies effective and stand by them.”
The video attracted more than 1.5 million online views in 48 hours, according to SumOfUs, a group that helped force policy changeslast year at Kellogg Co. (K)
Consumer-products companies are facing increased scrutiny over palm oil, which is used in everything from food to beauty care. The ingredient, worth $50 billion a year, is the most widely used vegetable oil, according to Boston-based Green Century Capital Management Inc., another group that put pressure on Kellogg.
Activists say the oil’s popularity has led to the plowing of Southeast Asian rain forests to create farms. Palm Oil production endangers wildlife and has spurred human-rights abuses among workers, SumOfUs has alleged. The group said PepsiCo’s policies fall short in addressing these concerns.
“To be clear, SumOfUs and their allies have several very specific requests for PepsiCo, none of which are covered by the company’s current policy,” it said today in a statement.
The spoof ad features a Doritos-obsessed couple that exchanges bouquets made of the corn chips and even take Doritos baths together. The pair then goes on a “Doritos Adventure” to a rain forest. After peeling back lush green ferns, they are disturbed to find a smoking, burned-out landscape.
“Doritos may contain traces of rain forest,” the video says. “Tell Doritos and PepsiCo to adopt a responsible palm oil policy and save our rain forests.”
In its statement, PepsiCo noted its commitment to 100 percent sustainable palm oil in 2015 and to zero deforestation.
“It is no surprise that SumofUs’s continual mischaracterizations of our palm-oil commitments are patently false and run counter to the positive reception our policies have received from expert organizations in this arena,” PepsiCo said. – Bloomberg
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