In July of 2013, Moms Clean Air Force joined in an open letter to top North American businesses. The agenda was to strongly “urge” them to stop using fuel derived from tar sands sources. A call for an increase in “the efficiency of your vehicle fleet and shipping operations” was requested. The letter noted, “Extracting and upgrading a barrel of tar sands oil generates up to three times more greenhouse gas emissions than extracting a barrel of conventional oil.”
A ten-point fact sheet outlines the toxicity of this form of oil and the resulting ecological devastation from the extraction process. Additional concerns include the excessive use of fresh water, high risk of endangering water supplies, spills, and the data documenting a spiked rate of cancer in communities adjacent to drilling areas.
Now, a year later, groups are once again asking American corporations to “follow the lead of nineteen major companies” that have cut their usage of tar sands fuel.
At a shareholder meeting for PepsiCo this past June, Gina Coplon-Newfield of the Sierra Club had the opportunity to meet PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra K. Nooyi. Coplon-Newfield was present with activists from ForestEthics, to deliver petitions against the use of tar sands oil by PepsiCo. The two women had a personal conversation about their concerns for the wellness of the planet, and connected around the fact that they were both parents of daughters. Having spoken to one of the top decision makers at the company, Coplon-Newfield departed with an encouraged outlook. If PepsiCo made a commitment to join other enterprises (like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods) in discontinuing the use of tar sands oil, the impact and optics would be major.
PepsiCo, like all large and high-profile firms, is concerned with public opinion—as well as with building and keeping a loyal consumer base. In May, they decided to tap into the social media universe to reach “the Now Culture,” with a well-researched global campaign branded #LiveForNow. Social Media 101 teaches that engagement with users comes with a price—and that can include negative responses to a perceived agenda. A blog on Fast Company about the initiative had a number of comments suggesting that PepsiCo may be on the wrong track.
Those in environmental and parenting circles agree. In a move that may make the “Cola-Wars” look like a picnic, people are coalescing and engaging in a dialogue that questions, “#WhatAboutTomorrow?”
Following in the footsteps of the “#TastesLikeTarSands action, which asks Pepsi questions like, “How much water is poisoned to produce one barrel of tar sands?”—the newest hash-tagged question is being directly posed to Indra Nooyi. The query solicits a response to: “Pepsi keeps saying #LiveForNow. You have the power to protect our kids’ future by committing PepsiCo to not use tar sands fuel. We ask: #WhatAboutTomorrow?”
Pulling in all the top social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—people are being invited to take photos of the children in their lives and post the images. (Video is being solicited as well). The goal is to show the faces of the upcoming generation, left impacted by the extreme fall out of climate change. Even those not in any social networks can get in the act by sending in an e-mail with a photo attached.
All the received photographs will become part of a huge collage that will be sending the explicit message, “The future is important to us, so it’s time to stop using dangerous tar sands fuel, to slash overall oil consumption, and to start thinking more about tomorrow.”
It will be interesting to see how Ms. Nooyi responds.
Graphic: Courtesy of Sierra Club