Oxfam’s ‘Behind the Brands’ report, written by Beth Hoffman, scores and ranks the world’s 10 biggest food and beverage companies upon the basis of corporate policies and commitments to social and environmental justice within agricultural production.
Beverage giants Coke and PepsiCo are ranked third and fourth place respectively, but with unimpressive overall scores of 41% (Coke), 31% (PepsiCo), while Nestlé tops the table with 54%, followed by Lipton Tea brand owner Unilever (49%).
Coke welcomes 'continuous dialogue' with Oxfam
Coca-Cola Great Britain said today that it was aware of the report and its ranking, and was committed to implementing practices throughout its supply chain that advanced a sustainable agriculture strategy and supported commitments to build more sustainable communities.
“We believe in creating economic opportunities for women and smallholder farmers as well as stewarding water and other natural resources within the more than 200 countries in which we operate,” the company said.
“As part of The Coca-Cola Company’s commitment to transparent, more sustainable and responsible business practices, we welcome a continuous dialogue with Oxfam that enables us to identify and address global challenges collaboratively.”
The charity’s report ranks the world’s 10 leading companies – Mars, Danone, Mondelēz, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Associated Foods are also scored (see below) – using the following seven measures: Land (supply chains free of ‘land grabs’, especially in developing countries), Women (promotion of women’s welfare), Farmers (treatment of farmers, including sustainability policies).
Other heads are Workers (fair treatment of agricultural workers), Climate (work to mitigate harmful greenhouse gas emissions), Transparency (disclosure of information about where products and ingredients originate) and Water (respect of human rights to water, disclosure of water use, reduction thereof and water management.
Hoffman said that Coca-Cola products were consumed 1.7bn times per day while 4,000 cups of Nescafé are drunk every second; together the big ten food and drink firms represent roughly 10% of the world economy.
All the ‘Big 10’ had made commitments to a more just food system, Hoffman said. “Yet the scorecard shows that these very same companies are currently failing to take the necessary steps in their policies to ensure the well-being of those working to produce their products.”
Only PepsiCo recognizes water as 'human right'
Notably, Coke was the only ‘Big 10’ company not to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (thus committing to protect local community land rights). But Coke and PepsiCo were the only firms with policies that account for the effect of their operations on local water access.
“Over the past decade, only PepsiCo has taken the crucial first step of publicly recognizing that water is a human right and committing to consult local communities on plans to develop water resources,” Hoffman wrote.
Coke was one of five firms (PepsiCo is not on the list) that had taken steps to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (such as electricity usage) from direct operations, Hoffman said, before adding that none of the companies had developed policies to help farmers deal with climate change.
More damningly, although both Pepsi and Coke had signed Women’s Empowerment Principles, Hoffman claimed that none of the Big 10 “knows or is attempting to find out how many women farmers are involved in their supply chains or in which type of farming activities they are engaged”.
“Without such knowledge, they cannot determine whether women are at risk of exclusion of exploitation, and whether women have equal access to the safer, better-paid and more stable jobs often reserved for men at farm level,” she added.
In response to the report, a PepsiCo spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com this afternoon: "PepsiCo strongly believes in the need to respect, support and invest in the communities where we operate through sustainable agriculture practices."
They added: "Guided by our Sustainable Agriculture Policy and Supplier Code of Conduct , we’ve developed a Sustainable Farming Initiative that builds on that foundation and addresses the three key pillars of sustainable agriculture: environmental, social and economic.
"We continue to work with our partners and stakeholders in sustainable agriculture and use our global capabilities for the benefit of our business and the communities," the PepsiCo spokesperson said.