Learn about SSBs & the UC Policies on Sustainability
On this page, we describe the social and natural science research on the health and environmental effects of SSBs, the beverage and food environments on our campuses, and the policies and values of the UC, UCSB and HBI.
What are Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs)?
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are drinks that contain added, caloric sugar including:
non-diet sodas, flavored juices, sports drinks, coffee drinks. Added sugars are considered as caloric sugars (ex: sucrose, cane sugar, honey) added during the processing or packaging of foods. They do not include non-caloric sweeteners (e.g. acesulfame potassium, sucralose, stevia), which, however, may also have negative health effects.
What are the effects of SSBs on our health and communities?
According to the CDC, "people who often drink sugary drinks are more likely to face health problems, such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout."
The SSB industry, dominated by Coke and Pepsi, historically and currently targets low income people and people of color. These communities often have low food have higher than average prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like diabetes. Low income and low food security are also strongly related to risk of diet-related and other NCDs.
These higher risk populations have increased, as a proportion of US Higher Education Index, over the last 20 years. And at the UC, between 2000 and 2018, the proportion of UC first year enrollees who were Chicano/Latino increased from 12 to 25%, and Black from 3 to 4%, while the proportion white decreased from 37 to 19% and the proportion of first year enrollees who were first generation increased from 34 to 39%. Using strategic marketing and affordable prices, SSB companies are able to make the availability of beverages more appealing to the public.
What are the effects of SSBs on our environment?
SSBs and other beverages contribute to the global environmental crises of climate change, plastiv pollution, and water scarcity. These detrimental impacts result from the production of beverages, including growing of ingredient crop and production of containers and packaging. Reducing the consumption of SSBs and other commercial beverages can decrease these impacts on our environment. Non-SSB commercial beverages, like bottled fruit and vegetable juices, coffee, and tea, also have negative impacts that need to be considered.
The UCSB HBI Research Group is currently doing research on the greenhouse gas, plastic pollution, and fresh water impacts of SSBs and other beverages sold at UCSB, in comparison to tap water.
Photo taken at UCSB Arbor
What is the beverage environment at the UC and UCSB?
All UC campuses except UCSF currently have a pouring rights contract with SSB corporations, PepsiCo or Coca-Cola, which obligate campuses to promote sales of their products in return for payments to the campus. The Pouring Rights Contract describes the exclusive rights of a beverage company and/or distributor to have its products sold and advertised at a particular venue, event, or institution.
The financial benefits of these contracts can be compared with their negative effects on human health and well-being, climate and the environment, and society on our students, campus communities, and globally.
UCSB has a Pouring Rights Contract with PepsiCo that expires on June 30, 2024. The contract with PepsiCo specifies that PepsiCo products comprise most of the beverage sales on campus, with few exceptions. For instance, PepsiCo products can occupy as much as 100% of the merchandise sold at athletic concessions and as much as 60% of the shelf space at convenience stores.
There are efforts at some campuses to eliminate these contracts because of the negative and racist health and environmental impacts of SSBs, and the unethical behavior of SSB corporations, e.g. by students at UC Berkeley.
Pouring rights contract:
describes the exclusive rights of a beverage company and/or distributor to have its products sold and advertised at a particular venue, event, or institution (UCB Pour Out Pepsi, 2020).
What are the UC and UCSB Values & Policies?
The UC and UCSB are actively creating and reforming policies and programs to prioritize human health, environmental, and social values. Let's look at some highlights. With the information given above, how can we, at UCSB, tangibly implement our values and policies?
The UC Values & Policies
In the 2020 Strategic Plan, UC Health states that “We set high ethical standards and lead by example. We act in a credible and trustworthy manner. We treat all people with dignity, respect, professionalism, and fairness” (p. 20).
The UC Office of the President has set a goal to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030.
UCSB's Values & Policies
As an institution, UCSB implements a myriad of programs to support the health and sustainability values that students, staff, and faculty uphold.
To assist in student well-being, UCSB has resources, such as the Health & Wellness Program, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and Healthy Campus Network (HCN), that promote innovative reforms to make the UC the healthiest place to work, live, and learn”.
UCSB also highly values our environmental programs, like the Sustainability Program, Global Food Initiative, and Zero Waste Committee. “UCSB strives... to ensure that all students understand the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, and social systems and to communicate that we each have a role to play in sustainability” (UCSB Sustainability Website).
UCSB HBI Research Group's Role
With what we know about the health, environmental, and social effects of SSBs, the UCSB HBI Research Group wants to stimulate a conversation about whether the UC and UCSB's policies align with our values. Check out our about page for more info about what we do!