John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), is calling out PepsiCo for continued discrimination after a year of negotiations that have yet to produce contracts with any Black farmers.
This after Boyd, a farmer from Mecklenberg County, Va., says PepsiCo had made a verbal commitment to work with the NBFA if its members were able to meet certain conditions. Instead, he said in a statement, the company has added racial discrimination to a growing list of complaints including concerns over the company’s negative environmental impact through deforestation, pesticide use, the exploitation of water resources, and global plastic pollution.
According to Boyd, in June 2020, after PepsiCo came under fire for the continued use of the Aunt Jemima image and brand, they clamored to partner with Black farmers. Later that month, the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Simon Lowden said they had doubled their procurements with black-owned suppliers and joined the National Black Growers Council as an Advisory Board member, Forbes.com reports.
By February 2021 when PepsiCo announced its rebranding of the Aunt Jemima line, the company pledged to increase diversity and inclusion throughout their supply chain, including agriculture. But Boyd maintains these promises reflect the company’s concerns with the optics of the situation, rather than a true commitment to working with Black farmers.
“Only White farmers have been afforded the opportunity to share in PepsiCo’s enormous profits,” he said. “It prefers the superficial responses to public opinion, such as changing the brand image of its stereotyped figure Aunt Jemima. The multi-billion-dollar leader in its category seems to regard social responsibility, and health standards and environmental concerns as optional values. It has vowed to uphold commitments to those issues, but has declined to release public information documenting progress on changing company practices.”
Boyd says that in 2020, PepsiCo suggested they would conduct business with NBFA members, contingent on the farmers sharing their personal information through the association’s national database.
“A year and a half later, when NBFA growers met all the required elements for a potato delivery contract, the company’s executives apparently had lost interest in keeping its part of the bargain,” he explained.
Instead, the organization was told that PepsiCo had decided to ‘move in a new direction’ that would not include NBFA black farmer members..
“Our outrage at this kind of bullying discrimination is not just about hurt feelings,” Boyd concluded in his statement. “Our livelihood and financial stability [are] at stake when we encounter such blatantly low-level business practices. Some black farmers have actually lost their farms amid this unethical and inhumane treatment.”
Boyd says the NBFA is exploring its legal options regarding the verbal commitment made by PepsiCo in regards to the potato contract they had previously proposed.