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Big four banks financing companies accused of human rights abuses

Author: David Estcourt, The Sydney Morning Herald, Published on: 28 June 2019

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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