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Activists unfurl banner on iconic NYC Pepsi sign in palm oil protest

by Sebastien Malo | @SebastienMalo | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 25 April 2016 18:38 GMT

A banner installed by activists with the Rainforest Action Network hangs from an iconic Pepsi-Cola billboard located on the edge of the East River in the New York City borough of Queens on 25 April, 2016. REUTERS/Walter Hergt/Handout via Reuters

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The activists said PepsiCo should play a larger part in encouraging responsible behavior by the palm oil industry

(Updates with response from PepsiCo.)

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Environmental activists attempted to shame multinational PepsiCo on Monday by draping its iconic New York City billboard with a banner in protest at its use of palm oil.

A huge white banner reading "Cut Conflict Palm Oil" hung for about an hour from a celebrated Pepsi-Cola sign that is one of the most recognizable features of the New York waterfront. The red neon billboard was designated an official city landmark earlier this month.

Activists from the Rainforest Action Network said the stunt was intended to pressure PepsiCo into ridding its supply chain of palm oil from plantations where employers are accused of abusing workers and being responsible for large-scale deforestation.

In recent years, large swathes of tropical forests have been cut down particularly in Southeast Asia to make way for commercial palm oil plantations amid growing demand, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

PepsiCo spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said the company has committed to sourcing its palm oil responsibly and developed an action plan to that end. PepsiCo further sought to protect labor and human rights throughout its supply chain, she said.

"When questions arise about the practices of suppliers, we take them seriously and engage to address the matter," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

But the activists said PepsiCo should play a larger part in encouraging responsible behavior by the palm oil industry.

"Pepsi is a globally influential, multibillion dollar brand. It has both the power and the resources to tackle the palm oil crisis head on," said Ginger Cassady, a spokeswoman for the Rainforest Action Network.

PepsiCo sells products to over 200 countries and territories, according to the company's website. It owns a slew of global brands including Gatorade, Lipton and the classic cola beverage Pepsi.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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