PepsiCo, Coca-Cola back global guidelines on land tenure: FAO

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PepsiCo has joined fellow beverage company Coca-Cola in giving its official support to a set of global guidelines that aim to protect the rights of poor and vulnerable people to land, livelihoods and food security, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

Initiated by FAO and endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012, the 'Voluntary Guidelines' call for the commitment of both the public and private sectors, and include recommendations to safeguard local people’s rights in the event of large-scale land acquisitions, warding off the phenomenon of land grabs.

"PepsiCo is the second big beverage company to give its support to the guidelines after the Coca-Cola Company publicised a commitment to land rights in November 2013," the FAO said on its website.

The two cola giants have also vowed to increase their participation in the Committee on World Food Security to further demonstrate support to responsible land rights practices, it said.

"Securing the official commitment and operational support of both PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company is tremendously significant for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines and we hope that more large private companies will follow their lead," said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO's Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development.

Currently, the FAO is working on a private sector technical guide for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines, in collaboration with major private sector actors.

"FAO considers compliance with the voluntary guidelines as the baseline for all our partnerships, and we call on all of our current and potential partners to support them," Villarreal said.

According to the UN body, PepsCo has published a policy recognising its obligations to respect and protect the rights of local people and encouraging its supplier countries to meet certain standards, including the principles listed in the 'Voluntary Guidelines'.

In its land policy, PepsiCo said it "is committed to doing business the right way and has a zero tolerance for illegal activities in our supply chain and land displacements of any legitimate land tenure holders."

In addition to fair and legal negotiations on land transfers and acquisitions in developing countries, the company has pledged to carry out social and environmental assessments across its global supply chains, beginning in Brazil, its top sugar-sourcing country, FAO added.

Working with NGO Oxfam, Coca-Cola committed to help protect the land rights of communities and conduct assessments in some of the world’s top sugarcane-producing regions, in addition to implementing a zero tolerance stance on land grabbing.

As part of its commitment, the multinational said it would publicly advocate that food and beverage companies, traders, and sourcing country governments endorse and implement the Voluntary Guidelines.

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