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Australia: Report accuses 'big four' banks of financing palm oil companies linked to land grabbing & human rights violations

A new report Draw the line: A black book about the shady investments of Australian banks in palm oil  published by the Friends of the Earth Australia alleges that four of Australia's biggest banks are complicit in rainforest clearing, land grabbing, and human rights violations by providing finance to the palm oil sector. Specifically, the report alleges that all four banks have financial involvement with Wilmar International, which has been linked to human rights abuses that span several decades and numerous regions. 

None of the banks commented on specific client relationships, but all reiterated their commitment to continual assessment of the environmental and social impacts of those they provide credit to.

 

Draw the line

 

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Article
28 June 2019

Big four banks financing companies accused of human rights abuses

Author: David Estcourt, The Sydney Morning Herald

25 June 2019

Australia's big four banks are financing companies accused of land grabs, deforestation and labour abuses in developing countries.

ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac have funded, directly or indirectly, companies accused of improperly acquiring land from local people, child labour violations and land clearing, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth Australia.

...None of the banks commented on specific client relationships, but all reiterated their commitment to continual assessment of the environmental and social impacts of those they provide credit to.

Westpac, ANZ and NAB went a step further and said if customers do not meet the human rights standards set by the bank, they may decline further funding or exit the relationship.

"If any clients are identified as operating outside the law, or do not meet our requirements, we will engage those clients and, if appropriate, we may exit the banking relationship," a spokesperson from Westpac said.

ANZ said where customer practices are not consistent with the bank's policies, and customers are not willing to accept their standards "in an appropriate timeframe, we may decline financing or exit the relationship".

...One company, Wilmar International, which has repeatedly been granted funding extensions by all four banks, has consistently been linked to human rights abuses that span several decades and numerous continents.

...Wilmar's sustainability spokesman said they constantly and consistently engage all stakeholders and partners, including financial institutions, and asserted they are now 100 per cent deforestation free consistent with their "No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation" policy....

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Report
28 June 2019

Draw the line: A black book about the shady investments of Australian banks in palm oil

Author: Friends of the Earth Australia

June 2019

ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank are ducking their responsibility for the disastrous consequences of providing finance to the palm oil sector. This black book reveals that these four Australian banks are failing in their attempts to prevent their money from being used to fund rainforest clearing, land grabbing and human rights violations. ...These banks, however, refuse to recognise the structural nature of the palm oil sector's issues. ...That is why Friends of the Earth Australia is calling on ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank to cut their financial ties with the palm oil sector and to withdraw from it as soon as possible.

...All big four banks had ongoing financial involvement with Wilmar International of over US$2billion, which has had multiple allegations of harmful practices. One such example is in West Sumatra Indonesia where the PT PMJ plantation, part of the Indonesian company AMP POM – PT AMP, a subsidiary Wilmar International is accused of intimidating the resident population and chasing the inhabitants off their native land to make way for palm oil.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg, 68 human rights and environmental violations were discovered at multiple palm oil plantations belonging to Wilmar International Limited, Triputra Agro Persada, POSCO DAEWOO, Olam International Limited, Noble Plantations Pte Ltd, Goodhope Asia, Astra International that have received money from at least one of these four Australian banks within the past ten years. ...ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank have been active in the palm oil sector for a considerable period of time...

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