NEW YORK, March 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In the midst of a pro-life boycott over PepsiCo’s use of aborted fetal cells in flavor research, a prestigious international think tank has designated the soft drink company one of the “world’s most ethical companies.”

According to Ethisphere, the California based organization that produces the list, the ranking honors those companies that “go beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action,” and “demonstrate real and sustained ethical leadership within their industries.”

The recently released 2011 list names 110 companies, including Pepsi. Several other pro-life boycott targets were also included, such as Whole Foods and Marriott Hotels which have given support to Planned Parenthood.

The institute noted on its website that 26 companies which had previously been on the list were “dropped off” this year due to “ litigation and ethics violations, as well as increased competition from within their industry.”

Despite mounting outrage against Pepsi from consumers as well as a shareholder complaint, however, the soft drink company has never been removed from the list. In fact, Pepsi has touted itself as the only food and beverage producer to receive the honor every year since it was initiated in 2007.

While the soft drink company claimed in an email to LifeSiteNews that it does not “conduct or fund research that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from human embryos or fetuses,” it did not deny the allegation in its response to a shareholder complaint over the research. Instead, the company told the Securities and Exchange Commission that shareholders should not be allowed to control whether a company uses aborted fetal cells in research since this “deals with matters related to the company’s ordinary business operations.”

According to Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, the company’s denial of its use of aborted fetal cells likely rests on the fact that the research company it has contracted with does not use the original cells from the aborted baby, but rather cells derived from those original cells.

Vinnedge, who is leading the charge against Pepsi, told LifeSiteNews that her organization is “shocked and disappointed” by news of the award.

“We wrote to Ethisphere to let them know that the fact that PepsiCo is funding the use of aborted fetal cell lines to discover and develop their flavor enhancers is far from ethical business practices,” She said. “In addition, PepsiCo has misled the public using semantics and craftily worded responses to consumer complaints to try and weasel out of what they are actually doing.”

Ethisphere did not respond to Vinnedge’s complaint beyond the initial automated response generated by any inquiry. The institute also did not return repeated phone calls from LifeSiteNews seeking comment.

To contact Ethisphere, go here