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Brazil: NGO report alleges companies complicit in deforestation & human rights abuses in the Amazon

2019-complicity-in-destruction-2

[To read this story in Portuguese, please, click here]

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited 55 companies to respond to allegations of their involvement in the deforestation of the Amazon as well as human rights abuses. The report from Amazon Watch and Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil-APIB (National Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) , "Complicity in Destruction II: How northern consumers and financiers enable Bolsonaro's assault on the Brazilian Amazon", states that European and North American businesses that finance and source from Brazil are connected to the Brazilian government´s roll-back of socio-environmental standards that are fundamental to preserving the Amazon's ecological integrity and the well-being of indigenous people. The report analysed Brazilian companies that were fined for environmental crimes in the Amazon since 2017, and identified a range of northern commercial interests that do business with them. There are allegations that agribusiness companies operated in areas of indigenous land conflicts and extracted resources from protected areas.

The companies that responded to these allegations, and whose responses can be found below are the following: Acai GmbH Fine Fruits Club, ASR Group, ABN Amro, Azimut Group, Boa-Franc, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Brandes Investment Partners, Citigroup, Conceria Cristina, Crédit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Fidelity, Global Timber, HSBC, ING Group, JPMorgan Chase, Louis Dreyfus Company, Marfrig, Robinson Lumber Company, Storebrand, Tradelink, Rino Mastrotto Group, Van den Berg Hardhout and Vogel Import & Export. The responses from Argus Comercio e Exportação de Alimentos, Benevides Madeiras, Marfrig, and Minerva are available here in Portuguese. Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Bunge previously responded to these allegations here (also included below) and State Street and Vanguard declined to respond at that time. ADM, AgroSB, Argus Comercio e Exportação de Alimentos, Bunge, Cargill, Frigorífico Xingara, GWW Houtimport, JBS, and Nordisk Timber Eireli commented on the allegations in the Mongabay article below. Algar Agro, owner of ABC Inco and ABC Indústria e Comércio SA, Agro SB, Bunge, Cargill and Frigorifico Xingara commented on the allegations in the Epoca article in Portuguese here (and also below).

Bank of America, BlackRock, Brighton Collectibles, Capital Group, Conceria Cadore, ED&F Man, Faeda, Invesco, Santander, Thompson Mahogany Company and Vandecasteele Houtimport did not respond. Deutsche Bank, T.Rowe Price, Guillemette & Cie declined to respond. Agropecuária Rio da Areia, Groupe Rougier, Grupo BIHL: Agropecuária MALP & Frigorífico Redentor, Hoogendoorn Hout, Italpelli, JJ Samara Agronegócios Eireli, Keflico, Uniggel Proteção de Plantas, Usina Trapiche & Temape Group have not yet responded and we will add their responses if they reply in the near future. We were not able to reach Farm Credit Services or Northwest Hardwoods.

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Company response
22 July 2019

Credit Suisse response

Author: Credit Suisse

We are aware that certain stakeholders have raised concerns and allegations regarding the operations of meat-producing companies in the Amazon region, in particular around illegal deforestation, impacts  on indigenous communities, and labor-related issues. To the extent that any such issues and concerns are related to Credit Suisse financing activities or client relationships, they are examined during a structured due diligence process, which includes discussions with the respective company. If there are grounds to believe that a potential transaction or client relationship may not be compatible with our existing commitments or internal guidelines, Credit Suisse conducts a bank-wide, Reputational Risk Review Process to ensure potential transactions are in compliance with all the applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets in which it operates. In addition, we take account of industry-specific agreements and commitments in assessing potential or existing transactions or client relationships...

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Company non-response
22 July 2019

Deutsche Bank did not respond

Company non-response
22 July 2019

Faeda did not respond

Company non-response
22 July 2019

Guillemette & Cie did not respond

Company response
22 July 2019

HSBC response

Author: HSBC

...For soy, rubberwood and cattle ranching, HSBC will not knowingly provide financial services to high-risk customers involved directly in or sourcing from suppliers involved in: Deforestation, that is: the conversion of areas (often forests) necessary to protect HCVs; the conversion of primary tropical forests; or clearance by burning. Exploitation of people and communities, such as: harmful or exploitative child labour or forced labour; the violation of the rights of local communities, such as the principle of free, prior and informed consent; and operations where there is significant social conflict. This information is contained in our Agricultural Commodities Policy, available on our website. On forestry, we have had a policy in place since 2004, initially the Forest Land and Forest Products Sector Policy and now a stand-alone Forestry Policy, also available on the website.  This states that “HSBC will not knowingly provide financial services to customers involved directly, or indirectly via the supply chain, in: illegal logging; wood logged in violation of traditional and civil rights; wood logged in forests where high conservation values are threatened by industry; or forests being converted to plantation or to non-forest use (deforestation).”...

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Company response
22 July 2019

ING response

Author: ING

...Regardless of national legislation, ING is guided by our Environmental and Social Risk Framework. Within this framework, deforestation and/or burning down of tropical forests is a restricted activity. This means zero tolerance to provide a product or service that facilitates deforestation and/or burning down of tropical forests. Please see the appendix below for the reference to our public framework. Within our ESR Framework we include a forestry and agricultural commodities sector policy. As mentioned therein, ING recognises that while we do not finance products directly facilitating deforestation in the Amazon, commodity traders such as the client's listed within the aforementioned report face supply chain risks. We take these risks into account. In our 2018 ESR Framework review a key change has been made in enhanced supply chain due diligence. A comprehensive highlight is included in the appendix below. Accompanying our sector policy, the ESR Framework guides ING to re-assess clients running high risks on a yearly basis, and clients with normal risk profiles every three years. Within this continuous monitoring we would be made aware of fines issued to our clients. Based on the nature of the controversy, the sector, the region involved, as well as the client profile we can set out an engagement plan with our clients...

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Company response
22 July 2019

JPMorgan Chase response

Author: JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase has a long history of advancing environmentally sustainable solutions for clients and its own operations... We firmly believe that balancing environmental and social issues with financial considerations is fundamental to sound risk management... On May 24th, JPMorgan Chase released our inaugural report on climate-related risks and opportunities. This report reflects where we are today in our efforts to integrate climate-related considerations into the way we run our business. Looking forward, we will build off of our current commitments, including our target to facilitate $200 billion in clean financing by 2025 – which we are already half way toward meeting... On human rights, JPMorgan Chase supports fundamental principles of human rights across all our lines of business and in each region of the world in which we operate. JPMorgan Chase’s respect for the protection and preservation of human rights is guided by the principles set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can find our full statement on human rights here.

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Company response
22 July 2019

Robinson Lumber Company response

Author: Robinson Lumber Company

... Contrary to widely-held beliefs that “cutting down trees is bad for the environment” we believe that promoting the use of renewable resources is critical to the future of planet, and that there is no more obvious and prevalent renewable resource than wood... Wood products are our livelihood and as such we are keenly aware of threats to the industry. We work within industry organizations (ITTO, AIMEX, NHLA, NWFA) to promote the use of legal hardwood resources worldwide...We operate legally with a robust system for due diligence to protect us and our clients around the world from non-compliant timber... In this age of social media and fake news, perhaps it should come as no surprise that a single biased and counterfactual report can spawn five, soon to be six, related articles that somehow omit any of the subsequent responses provided by those accused, or other facts available in the public domain.

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Company non-response
22 July 2019

Santander did not respond

Company response
22 July 2019

Storebrand response

Author: Storebrand

...Sustainability has for many years been an integral part of our asset management services.  We recognize the vital role forests play in climate change mitigation, biodiversity protection and in supporting livelihoods. Our work on deforestation started already in 2013 when we divested our shares in eleven of the twelve palm oil companies in which we were invested. Since then, we have expanded our work on deforestation to also focus on other forest-risk commodities such as soy, timber and cattle products and are active participants of the PRI working groups on palm oil, cattle/soy and ASEAN banks. We expect companies to commit to eliminate deforestation from their supply chain to help end global deforestation and that  company’s production, sourcing, and financial investments do not cause or contribute to the loss of natural forests. Companies should commit to eliminating the conversion of other natural ecosystems from their supply chains and that its activities do not cause or contribute to the loss of natural ecosystems. We furthermore expect companies to commit to respect human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. Internationally recognized rights of workers should be respected in all production and trade activities in their operations and supply chains and to conduct business consistent with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and ILO Core Conventions...

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