By Sebastien Malo
Environmental activists have attempted to shame multinational PepsiCo by draping its iconic New York City billboard with a banner in protest at its use of palm oil.
A huge white banner reading "Cut Conflict Palm Oil" hung for about an hour on Monday from a celebrated Pepsi-Cola sign that is one of the most recognisable features of the New York waterfront.
The red neon billboard was designated an official city landmark earlier this month.
Activists from the Rainforest Action Network said the stunt was intended to pressure PepsiCo into ridding its supply chain of palm oil from plantations where employers are accused of abusing workers and being responsible for large-scale deforestation.
PepsiCo did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone and email.
On its website, the company says it is committed to purchase palm oil certified by the "Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil by 2020" and is committed to "doing business the right way and to realising zero deforestation and respect for human rights."
In recent years, large swathes of tropical forests have been cut down particularly in Southeast Asia to make way for commercial palm oil plantations amid growing demand, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The activists said PepsiCo should play a larger part in encouraging responsible behaviour by the palm oil industry.
"Pepsi is a globally influential, multibillion dollar brand.
"It has both the power and the resources to tackle the palm oil crisis head on," said Ginger Cassady, a spokeswoman for the Rainforest Action Network.
PepsiCo sells products to over 200 countries and territories, according to the company's website. It owns a slew of global brands including Gatorade, Lipton and the classic cola beverage Pepsi.