World Food Day and Behind the Brands: Connecting the dots

by oxfamcanada | October 17, 2013
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Yesterday was World Food Day. It was also an exciting day for the Behind the Brands campaign, with stunts taking place in Canada, USA, and the Netherlands. But what’s the connection between the two? How is some volunteers holding a banner outside of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola signs connected to a global day uniting people in the fight against hunger?

Let’s take a step back. Behind the Brands is part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign. At its heart, GROW has a simple message: too many people are going hungry because the system is broken.

Although the food system is complex, we do know that it is controlled by a small number of powerful actors: in a world with 7 billion food consumers, no more than 500 companies control 70% of food choice. The Behind the Brands campaign focuses on 10 of the most powerful of these companies, which produce famous brands such as Coca-Cola and Cadbury.

These food and beverage companies rely on farmers and workers to produce ingredients – to grow their sugar for our favorite drinks, or to grow the cocoa for our favorite chocolate bars. But it is a sad fact that many of these farmers and workers go hungry.

Power and responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility: the Big 10 should be using their considerable influence to address the hunger and poverty in their supply chains. We are pushing for them to do in a number of different ways.

Oxfam is in talks with most of the 10 companies, working with them to improve their policies and practice. Alongside this, the campaign has bursts of activity targeting three of the companies on one key issue. In February, we launched an action on women cocoa farmers, targeting Mars, Mondelez and Nestle. And we won.

Two weeks ago, we launched an action on land rights, asking Coke, Pepsi and ABF to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs.

We are committed to campaigning to make the companies listen and agree to our demands: we are talking to the media, creating a social media storm and asking people to sign our petition (so far more than 65,000 people have done so!).

We’re also running campaign stunts - yesterday, volunteers in America the US, Canada, and the Netherlands took to the streets with huge banners saying “Caution: Ingredients may cause land grabs” to highlight the issue.

Additionally, by talking to company employees, we’re hoping to spark an internal discussion in the companies regarding land grabs. And if this internal discussion is matched with large-scale public outrage, both online and offline, then the companies will have to listen.

Fighting to end land grabs is just one small but important part of the fight against hunger. Land grabs leave people homeless and hungry – it’s time we put a stop to them.

You can be part of this. Celebrate World Food Day 2013 -- and GROW Week -- by joining with campaigners across the world globe fighting for an end to land grabs.


Georgi York is Oxfam Great Britain's Global Campaigner

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