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1 Nov 2005

Netwerk Vlaanderen [Belgium]

Where do you draw the line? - Research into the financial links between five bank groups and companies that abuse human rights

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[describes human rights concerns regarding companies & projects in which AXA, Dexia, Fortis, ING & KBC have invested] Regarding credit, AXA informs us that every offer of credit is subject to ethical rules and the rule of law... AXA states that they wish to be a responsible shareholder in the use of their voting rights. In their written answer to Netwerk Vlaanderen, they state that voting is an efficient way to sanction companies that do not respect the ten basic principles of the Global Compact... Dexia has established an initiative, called Portfolio21, that offers insurance companies the opportunity avoid investing their insurance reserves in companies and governments that are involved in serious violations of workers' rights... Fortis...states that their ‘Global Credit Policy on Sustainability’ deals with several dimensions of human rights... Whenever Fortis is dealing with export or project finance, they state that they only invest in projects that are economically meaningful, that comply with international environmental standards, and make a socio-economic contribution. Fortis states explicitly that although the balance between these factors may be criticised by environmental organisation in some projects, this would not automatically exclude the project from financing... Fortis Investments, the portfolio manager for Fortis, has introduced systematic sustainability indicators in the management process... ING states that it has developed a separate policy for granting credit to companies that are involved in business that is not in agreement with ING’s social, ethical and environmental standards. This policy also deals with human rights... ING's ‘Global Voting Policy’ states that companies in its portfolio have to act responsibly to all stakeholders. This implies that they must take social and human rights issues into account in the areas in which they operate. ING states that it has used its voting rights, in the interests of the long term returns for customers, to ensure that this is the case... In their written response, they [KBC] state: "We offer no credit to clients which we know do not respect human rights". "This policy applies not only to companies, but also governments"... KBC states...that credit dossiers that do not fall under the Equator Principles must meet the same [Equator Principles] standards. [Companies with human rights concerns in which banks have invested: Wal-Mart, Jabil Circuit, Sanmina-SCI, Flextronics, Solectron, Celestica, Yue Yuen, Pou Chen, BP, Total, Petronas, Mitsui, DLH, Nippon Oil, Marubeni, Sakhalin project (developed by Shell, Mitsubishi), Trans-Thai-Malaysia Pipeline (developed by Petronas, PTT). Also refers to MOGE (Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise), Henan Rebecca, Confecciones Ninos, IBM, HP, Dell, Nikomas Gemilang (part of Pou Chen), Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Citigroup, ABN AMRO, Mizuho, Société Générale, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking (part of Sumitomo Group), Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Hypovereinsbank (HVB), West LB, Royal Bank of Scotland, other companies linked to Burma: Unocal (part of Chevron), Ivanhoe Mines, Nissho Iwai (now Sojitz). Also refers to companies that have withdrawn from Burma: British American Tobacco, Heineken, Triumph International, Levi Strauss, Aon, Premier Oil; other banks participating in Equator Principles: Crédit Lyonnais (part of Crédit Agricole), Rabobank, BNP Paribas; positive policies & steps at Co-operative Bank (part of Co-operative Group), Triodos Bank, Fortis, VDK.]

Part of the following timelines

AXA, ING, Fortis, Dexia & KBC have invested over US$8 billion in companies & projects implicated in human rights violations, says Belgian NGO

Walmart lawsuit (re gender discrimination in USA)