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1 Apr 2014

Australia's banks investment in companies accused of land grab (Oxfam report, Apr 2014) - companies responses

In April 2014, Oxfam Australia released the report "Banking on Shaky Grounds - Australia's big four banks and land grabs".  The report identifies four cases in Brazil, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea where Australia's largest four banks (ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, NAB, and Westpac) have allegedly funded, directly or indirectly, companies accused of land grabs, displacement, forced evictions, environmental damage and other human rights abuses.

This article includes statements by the four banks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, NAB, Westpac:
"Australian banks financing companies accused of land grabs, illegal logging and child labour", ABC (Australia), 28 Apr 2014

The cases are:

1) Brazil: "Commonwealth Bank owns shares...in agribusiness company Bunge. Bunge owns a sugar mill that sources from...Brazilian land which has been declared by the Brazilian Government as being subject to the process of return to its rightful Indigenous owners...Bunge and an adjacent sugar mill were requested by a Brazilian federal prosecutor to stop sourcing sugar cane from these Indigenous lands. The adjacent sugar mill complied, however Bunge has failed to do so. In addition to losing their land, at least 60 families from the Jatayvary community now find themselves living on the border of sugar plantations supplying Bunge, where they are exposed to pesticides and smoke from the burning of sugar cane straw, pollution of waterways and intense vehicle traffic that transports sugar cane".

We invited Bunge to respond:  Bunge response [PDF]

2) Cambodia: "ANZ Bank is financing Phnom Penh Sugar, a Cambodian sugar plantation that has been implicated in child labour, military-backed land grabs, forced evictions and food shortages for local families. It has been reported that at least 1000 families were evicted from their land to make way for the Phnom Penh Sugar plantation in Cambodia; with some given $100 to compensate for the loss of the land that had until then provided them with food and ongoing livelihoods. Many of these families say they were resettled on infertile land, making it impossible to farm enough food for their own families let alone to provide an income."

We invited Phnom Penh Sugar to respond. Phnom Penh Sugar response [PDF]

3) Indonesia: "The NAB has lent more than $218 million to Singapore-listed Wilmar, the world’s leading processor and trader of palm oil. The first NAB loan to Wilmar occurred during 2010, when the World Bank Group had suspended lending to Wilmar and the entire palm oil industry, following a complaint regarding Wilmar’s operations. The subsequent 2013 NAB loan came after Newsweek had ranked Wilmar as the least sustainable company in the world in terms of environmental performance...Yet the NAB, despite its stated commitment to environmental sustainability, has not made any public statements regarding the controversial palm oil industry, the issue of land grabs..."

We invited Wilmar to respond: Wilmar response [PDF]
Wilmar also sent us the following materials that clarify its position:
Wilmar's sustainability reports (2009, 2011)
Implementation progress report (5 Dec 2013 - 31 Mar 2014) [PDF]

4) Papua New Guinea: "Westpac has a 19-year-old banking relationship with a controversial logging company, 'WTK Group'...WTK’s particular logging operations in PNG were reviewed in 2003 by PNG’s Department of National Planning and Monitoring and found to raise concerns regarding use of violence, sexual misconduct in relation to local women, and environmental damage...More recently, WTK in PNG has been embroiled in the controversial Special Agricultural and Business Lease (SABL) debacle, in which almost 5 million hectares of land passed from communities into the hands of companies, largely logging companies, on the pretext of 'agricultural development'."

These articles include statements by WTK Group: 
"Australian Banks agree to work with Oxfam on land grab funding in PNG", Radio Australia, 29 Apr 2014
"Oxfam accuses Big Four banks of funding companies accused of land grabs", ABC (Australia), 28 Apr 2014