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Campus, PepsiCo’s renewed 10-year beverage contract faces student opposition

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Campus and PepsiCo are facing opposition to their renewal of a 10-year partnership to provide goods and services for campus-oriented settings.


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SEPTEMBER 27, 2023

PepsiCo announced the renewal of their 10-year beverage partnership with campus Thursday, outlining the goods and services to be provided to campus-operated settings including Berkeley Dining, Cal Athletics, International House and the Student Union.

The pouring rights contract, or PRC, allows campus to “streamline” managing goods and services and “strengthen” its relationship with PepsiCo, according to Amber Robertson, a spokesperson for campus University Business Partnerships & Services.

Robertson added these contracts will also allow campus to save costs and provide more opportunities to address issues of campus sustainability, nutrition, health and wellness.

Karis Polfer, campus student and Pour Out Pepsi co-director under the ASUC Environmental Council Office, however, alleged the PRC fails to meet campus values, in particular, their commitment to “operate from a student-centered framework.”

“This contract does not align with these values because students are in no way involved in the decision-making process and are continuously ignored and pushed to the side,” Polfer said in an email. “Students have constantly advocated for healthy beverages provided by local and sustainable providers.”

Russ Chung, campus chief procurement officer and co-chair of the UC Sustainable Procurement Working Group, said their beverage supplier was evaluated under four main areas including environment, labor and human rights, ethics and sustainable procurement.

Chung said the PRC aligns with major global environmental efforts such as the CEO Water Mandate initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

“With Pepsi, I strongly feel it is a better choice to collaborate with this global company that will continue to exist well past this contract life,” Chung said in an email. “We seek continual sustainable improvement and change using our full UC system sustainable advocacy, sustainable procurement scorecards, and the voice of the customer (Cal and UC).”

Aligning with sustainable goals, Robertson also noted non-single-use plastic products will account for about 90% of PepsiCo’s beverages to be sold on campus by 2024.

Polfer, however, noted the irony of promoting sustainability while partnering with PepsiCo, allegedly one of the world’s leading plastic polluters.

She further alleged issues with the PRC contract and transparency around PepsiCo products on campus.

Polfer noted that most students are unaware of the PRC contract, which Polfer said allegedly limits athletes to only use and thus act as ambassadors for PepsiCo products.

“I don’t think the lack of transparency is fair to the students let alone being tricked into funding a multi-billion dollar monopolistic corporation,” Polfer said in the email. “With this agreement, this promise has been completely thrown under the table. This is hypocritical, highly unethical, and controversial seeing that Berkeley loves to promote greenwashing on Campus.”

Polfer said she hopes to change this “finalized” partnership between campus and PepsiCo, and to remove PepsiCo partnerships from UC campuses.

She also hopes to garner more student and community support across campus, in addition to lawyers who can provide legal support to break the contract.

“Every single student that I have talked to has no idea about this contract, but when they become aware they are always opposed,” Polfer said in the email. “I know this campus can do better than this. It is very easy and just requires a little bit of effort from the institution that claims to care for its students.”

Contact Matthew Yoshimoto at 


SEPTEMBER 27, 2023