Australian NCP concludes ANZ's action not in line with the company's human rights policy in Phnom Penh Sugar case; company responds

The Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) has released its final statement in a case relating to ANZ's financing of Phnom Penh Sugar (PPS), a Cambodian company linked to forcible evictions and other human rights abuses. In its statement, the AusNCP levels criticism at ANZ Bank, saying it is "difficult to reconcile ANZ’s decision to  take on PPS as a client with its own internal policies and procedures—which appear to accord with the OECD Guidelines—as the potential risks associated with this decision would likely have been readily apparent".

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited ANZ to respond. Its response is linked below.

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Autor/in: Australian National Contact Point

2018

On 7 October 2014 the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) received a Specific Instance complaint from Equitable Cambodia (EC) and Inclusive Development International (IDI) on behalf of 681 families against Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ Group) and its group entity ANZ Royal Bank (Cambodia) Limited (ANZ Royal) (together, ANZ).

...The Specific Instance alleged non-observance by ANZ of certain parts of the General Policies Chapter and Human Rights Chapter of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) in relation to ANZ’s involvement with the developer of a sugar plantation and refinery project in Cambodia. The project is alleged to have forcibly displaced the families and dispossessed them of their land and productive resources...

The AusNCP considers that in this case it is difficult to reconcile ANZ’s decision totake on PPS as a client with its own internal policies and procedures—which appear to accord with the OECD Guidelines—as the potential risks associated with this decision would likely have been readily apparent...

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Autor/in: Richard Baker & Nick McKenzie, Sydney Morning Herald

11 October 2018

ANZ Bank failed to meet its own human rights standards when it financed a Cambodian sugar plantation that was linked to forced evictions, child labour and workplace deaths, according to an Australian Government investigation.

The criticism...is made in a report by the Australian National Contact Point...

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Autor/in: Holly Robertson, ABC News

12 October 2018

ANZ will consider whether to compensate hundreds of Cambodian families who were forcibly evicted from their farms to make way for a sugar plantation and refinery partially financed by the bank, chief executive Shayne Elliott has told a parliamentary committee.

...Phnom Penh Sugar, which received a $40 million loan from ANZ joint venture ANZ Royal Bank in 2011, forced hundreds of families off their farming land to make way for a sugar plantation and refinery in Cambodia's Kampong Speu province, and employed child labourers in dangerous conditions.

...Elliott said the bank provided financing for purposes of building the refinery, not to acquire the plantation land, but "that doesn't excuse it".

"This is a dreadful situation and nobody's proud of the situation that's happened," he said.

..."The profit on something like that would have been quite de minimus, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do the right thing," he said.

...Australian National Contact Point recommended that ANZ should introduce internal human rights compliance procedures, improve its screening of potential clients, and establish a grievance resolution mechanism.

...Elliott said the bank's human rights processes were "radically different" now, partly as a result of the Phnom Penh Sugar debacle.

"I believe that transaction would not get approved at ANZ today."

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Autor/in: Sophak Chakrya Khouth, The Phnom Penh Post

01 November 2018

The victims of … Phnom Penh Sugar Company development project in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district said they are “happy” to hear that ANZ Bank had declared … that it would consider compensating those affected by the project.

ANZ executive director Shayne Elliot said … that the bank had provided financing to build a refinery, not to seize plantation land.

“The bank will consider compensation for the affected. The profit on something like that would have been quite [minimal], but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the right thing,” Elliott said.

A report by rights groups claimed Phnom Penh Sugar received a $40 million loan from ANZ joint venture the ANZ Royal Bank in 2011…

A representative of the victims, Khon Khorn, 60, from Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune, told … that though the bank has not confirmed the date it will pay the compensation, the gesture shows that ANZ Bank is responsible and willing to solve the matter for her community…

Equitable Cambodia executive director Eang Vuthy appealed to ANZ Bank to create a “clear plan” to appease the community, …

The Australian National Contact Point …, a Treasury body that receives complaints against companies operating overseas, issued a statement … critical of ANZ for violating its own policies and international human rights standards when it provided the loan…

“There arguably should have been substantial questions and concerns in the minds of the ANZ credit decision makers,” it said…

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Autor/in: Inclusive Development International

"ANZ Declines to "Do the Right Thing" for Displaced Cambodian Farmers," 18 December 2018

ANZ Banking Group violated its own policies and international human rights standards by financing a Cambodian sugar company that seized land from local farmers, according to a report released by an Australian government body that monitors corporate behavior overseas. In a rare rebuke of a commercial bank, the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) found it “difficult to reconcile” ANZ’s decision to finance Phnom Penh Sugar with the bank’s internal rules and the OECD Guidelines, an ethical business code that the Australian government has endorsed.

Despite CEO Shayne Elliott’s comments to an Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee in response to the report that the bank should do the right the thingANZ has decided to keep the profits it earned from the human rights violations in Cambodia, deprive the victims of badly needed redress, and continue to mislead the public about the situation.

In 2011, ANZ provided a $40 million loan to Phnom Penh Sugar, which had forcibly displaced hundreds of local farming families and employed school-aged children in dangerous conditions at its sugarcane plantation in southern Cambodia. The human rights risks of doing business with the sugar company “would likely have been readily apparent” to ANZ...

Below are four misleading statements made by Shayne Elliott in a letter to interested stakeholders justifying the decision not to provide redress:

  1. Shayne Elliott wrongly claims that the AusNCP report “confirms that ANZ did not fund PPS’ acquisition of land or plantation development, which is at the core of ‘land grab’ claims for compensation.”
  1. Shayne Elliott wrongly claims that the AusNCP report “confirms that PPS was not a customer of the bank at the time it acquired land for the plantation development.”
  1. Shayne Elliott wrongly claims that the European Union (EU) is involved in a process to attempt to resolve the matter and that this is a viable option available to the claimants to obtain redress.
  1. Shayne Elliott claims that ANZ has committed to ‘zero tolerance’ for improper land acquisition and has made significant changes to seek to improve its human rights due diligence and commitments, but recent major corporate loan deals show otherwise.

 

 

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31 January 2019

Response by ANZ

Autor/in: ANZ

We acknowledge the ANCP report portrays circumstances which do not reflect well on any of the key stakeholders involved, including us. The application of our due diligence was clearly lacking and there was insufficient follow up. At the same time, the report does not contain any new information. We note the report confirms:

  • ANZ did not fund PPS' acquisition of land or plantation development, which is at the core of 'land grab' claims for compensation. 
  • PPS was not a customer of the bank at the time it acquired land for plantation development.

We accept we made mistakes. We have subsequently changed policies and processes to seek to ensure this does not happen again. Those changes include:

  • Committing to 'zero tolerance' of improper land acquisition
  • Considering remediation processes if we identify we have caused or contributed to adverse impacs, or are linked to adverse human rights impacts via our products and services
  • Making it clear we expect our customers to establish effective, transparent grievance mechanisms, especially for large projects.

Our advice from multiple perspectives is that, right now, the best step for the affected community is to seek to achieve compensation through the Cambodian Government process underway. This process is being observed by the European Union's "Everything But Arms" preferential sugar tariff program...

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