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What does it take to make a global sugar giant promise to improve its policies on land?
You. And more than 225,000 others too.
A month ago, Oxfam launched the second action of our Behind the Brands campaign asking three of the biggest companies in the sugar industry – Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods – to commit to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs. In just a few weeks tens of thousands of you took action – adding your name to the petition as well as sending messages and photos to the companies to get their attention.
And the result?
With more than 225,000 of you putting your names behind the campaign, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest purchaser of sugar, has done what you asked – commit to “zero tolerance” for land grabs. Coke is the first of the ‘Big 3’ to agree to do more to respect communities’ land rights throughout their supply chain – and these moves are happening because of the pressure you applied.
Today one of the biggest companies in the world stood up to take greater responsibility for the impacts of its operations. Coca-Cola has taken an important step to show its customers and the communities it relies upon that it aims to be a part of the solution to land grabs.
The public response to the campaign has been tremendous. This commitment is further evidence that no company is too big to listen to its customers. The biggest food giants in the world are changing how they operate because consumers are demanding it.
We’ll be closely tracking Coca-Cola to make sure they follow through on their promises. In particular we will continue to advocate for appropriate resolution for the communities in Brazil and Cambodia who continue to struggle to regain the rights to their land.
The time is now
Pernambuco State has one of the highest levels of land conflicts in Brazil and nearly half are related to sugar production. Usina Trapiche, a sugar company that provides sugar for food and drink companies (including PepsiCo), has been in conflict with a local fishing community over use of islands in the estuary for decades.
The families now have no land on which to plant fruit trees, cassava or other crops and they have to travel great distances from the slums to the estuary to fish. Whereas once they were able to subsist and make a small living beyond their own needs now they must spend most of what they earn to buy food.
Maria Nazarete dos Santos (known as Nazare) lived on the islands for her entire life until she was evicted by the company. “More than 30 people who lived on the islands are still going back to fish, but only three people, including myself, go to live there. Trapiche set our tents on fire 3 or 4 times. I lost my canvases and sleeping mattresses. My sister was pregnant one time when the violence happened and her tent was burnt. She miscarried and lost the baby. The mill also burnt down our wooden houses.”
Land grabs like this are the sugar industries' bitter secret – and this is not just happening in Brazil. In countries like Cambodia and around the world, families are facing the same fight for their land.
Pepsi and ABF: what are you waiting for?
Now that Coca-Cola, who sell over 20,000 drinks every second across the world, has committed to make sure the sugar in its products don’t lead to land grabs Pepsi and Associated British Foods have no excuses to keep lagging behind.
And with this year's deadline for filing a PepsiCo shareholder action – insisting that the company take action to stop land grabs – right around the corner, now's the time to ramp up the pressure on Pepsi. Show Pepsi that consumers and shareholders want them to act on this - let's fill PepsiCo's inbox with messages telling them they must keep up with Coca-Cola and commit to zero tolerance for land grabs.
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Read the details of Coca-Cola's commitments
Download Oxfam's report: Sugar Rush: Land rights and the supply chains of the biggest food and beverage companies
More success stories from our land grabs campaign