PepsiCo committed yesterday to take steps to stop illegal land seizures by suppliers of its raw materials such as sugar and palm oil, as it tries to improve social and environmental standards.

The pledge follows a similar commitment by Coca-Cola last year, and comes in response to a campaign by Oxfam that is pushing top food and beverage firms to improve ethical standards among their suppliers.

The industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years over the sourcing of raw materials in poor countries, attracting criticism on issues from child labour on cocoa farms to the impact of palm oil plantations on rainforests.

PepsiCo said it had worked with Oxfam and other external experts on a new policy to prevent suppliers displacing any legitimate landowners.

As demanded by Oxfam, PepsiCo also gave details about the amount of soya, palm oil and cane sugar it bought and the main countries that it sourced those raw ingredients from, which included Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, India and Thailand.

“These supply chains are… opaque. The companies… don’t even know where the sugar is coming from. It forces them to ask where their suppliers are getting it from,” Chris Jochnick, the director of Oxfam’s private sector work, said.

Oxfam said PepsiCo would audit its top sugar supplier, Brazil, this year, followed by Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines by the end of 2016, with a particular focus on making sure local communities gave consent before their land was sold for farming. – Reuters