NGOs file OECD complaint against Dutch bank ING for financing alleged palm oil abuses; incl. company comments

On 5 July, Friends of the Earth groups from the Netherlands, Liberia and Indonesia filed a complaint against Dutch bank ING Group with the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The complaint concerns ING Group's financing of companies that have allegedly been involved in environmental and human rights abuses in the palm oil sector: Noble Group, Bolloré Group/Socfin and Wilmar International.

Dutch NGO Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and the other complainants and supporters demand that ING Group divests from these companies as well as from palm oil in general. The organisations also ask Dutch authorities to acknowledge that ING Group contributed to the harms by not acting properly to address them, and call on the government to implement mandatory regulation for the financial sector. 

ING Group provided a statement on the same day, available below, along with Milieudefensie's press release.

On 20 January 2020, the Dutch NCP declared admissable the complaint alleging ING Bank "contributed to" palm oil abuses. According to Friends of the Earth, the complaint is one of the first to argue a financial sector actor 'contributed to' rather than being merely being 'linked to' abuses through its financing of palm oil companies. 

We have collected materials on the other named companies over the past years, such as: a report on alleged forest destruction for palm oil in Indonesia, including a Noble Group comment; coverage of a lawsuit filed by NGOs against Bolloré over alleged conditions at its Cameroon palm oil plantation; a Socfin response to allegations of land grabbing for palm oil in Sierra Leone; as well as statements and comments of Wilmar International from 2019 and 2016 regarding alleged human and labour rights abuses, including child labour, at palm oil plantations in Indonesia and elsewhere.

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Article
20 January 2020

Dutch National Contact Point accepts complaint alleging ING Bank "contributed to" palm oil abuses

Author: Friends of the Earth Netherlands

"Friends of the Earth groups complaint against ING Group admissible, declares OECD", 20 Jan 2020

The Dutch National Contact Point for the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) today declared a complaint from three Friends of the Earth groups (Milieudefensie (Netherlands), SDI (Liberia) and WALHI (Indonesia)) against Dutch bank ING admissible. This complaint is unique in that for the first time a company is accused of ‘contributing to’ rather than being merely ‘linked to’ wrongdoing. The complaint is supported by several other international organizations...

"This complaint demonstrates once again that we need binding legislation for financial institutions to put an end to dubious investments," Milieudefensie’s Anne Wijers says...

The organizations are particularly critical of ING because of its lack of awareness of existing abuses, underestimation of the extent of known abuses and inability to resolve them adequately. The organizations are also asking the OECD to clarify the conditions under which ING can be held responsible for the actions of companies they work with, the impact of their abuses and in what way ING should meaningfully contribute to remedies. The NCP is unlikely to make a final ruling on the complaint until spring 2021.

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Article
20 January 2020

ING Bank Under Fire for Palm Oil Financing

Author: Ruben Munsterman and Ewa Krukowska, Bloomberg

The Dutch unit of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development will consider a complaint from three NGO’s against banking giant ING Groep NV’s involvement in the palm oil industry.

Dutch Milieudefensie, Liberian SDI and Indonesian WALHI claimed in July that the Dutch lender continued to finance firms in the industry, even after they had alerted ING about human rights abuses and the environmental impact of the industry.

Over the past two years, palm oil has emerged as a flashpoint in a potential trade conflict between the European Union and producers from Indonesia to Malaysia...

ING has accepted the OECD’s offer to arrange talks with the groups, a spokesman for the bank said by email, adding that OECD hasn’t published a conclusion on the matter yet...

The EU accounted for 12% of Malaysia’s palm oil exports in 2018, making it the biggest buyer after India, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board. The Netherlands is the biggest EU importer of the commodity from Malaysia.

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Article
20 January 2020

Initial Assessment Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands, WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia and SDI/Friends of the Earth Liberia vs. ING

Author: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands

The Dutch NCP has accepted the case of Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands, WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia and SDI/Friends of the Earth Liberia regarding an alleged violation of the OECD Guidelines by ING.

The NCP is of the opinion that the notification merits further consideration and has offered its good offices to both parties. The objective is to bring parties to agreement on possible improvements of ING’s due diligence policies and practices regarding palm oil, and to assess the enterprise’s involvement with the actual or potential adverse impacts identified, in order to determine the appropriate responses and specifically, assess whether the enterprise contributed (or would contribute) to the adverse impact; or whether the adverse impact is (or would be) directly linked to its services by the business relationships.

Friends of the Earth as well as ING, have accepted the NCP's offer.

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Article
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Author: Belga (Belgique)

« Des ONG portent plainte aux Pays-Bas contre ING pour son soutien à l'huile de palme », 5 juillet 2019

Des ONG ont déposé plainte vendredi contre la banque néerlandaise ING auprès du point de contact des Pays-Bas de l'OCDE. Elles réclament que le groupe cesse d'investir dans des entreprises de production d'huile de palme qu'elles accusent d'être associées à un accaparement des terres et au travail des enfants dans plusieurs pays du sud. Des ONG belges ont également soutenu la plainte.

Celle-ci concerne les entreprises de palmiers à huile Bolloré Group/Socfin, Noble Group et Wilmar International. Les plaignants demandent qu'ING cesse d'investir dans ces sociétés et dans l'ensemble du secteur industriel de l'huile de palme.

"La banque, tout en étant au courant des problèmes, n'a pas pris les mesures appropriées pour les combattre et a donc contribué aux abus commis par ces entreprises", pointent les ONG...

...[U]n un porte-parole de l'entreprise a souligné qu'ING partageait les préoccupations des ONG. "Nous allons engager un dialogue avec nos clients, dont ceux actifs dans la production d'huile de palme, pour les encourager à améliorer leurs pratiques. Si ce dialogue n'est pas suivi d'actions, nous pourrions décider de rompre nos liens", a-t-il indiqué...[Communiqué d'ING disponible ici (en anglais)]

Le groupe Socfin avait cependant précisé en mars que la collaboration se poursuivait puisque l'ensemble de ses plantations africaines de palmiers à huile seraient certifiées RSPO d'ici fin 2021, tandis que ses plantations indonésiennes l'étaient déjà depuis plusieurs années...

[Plusieurs documents sur les autres entreprises mentionnées dans la plainte figurent sur notre site, avec des déclarations des entreprises concernées:
- un rapport sur la destruction supposée de forêt pour la culture de l'huile de palme avec la réaction de Noble Group
- la plainte d'ONG contre Bolloré sur les conditions de vie des travailleurs et riverains des plantations d'huile de palme au Cameroun
- la réponse de Socfin aux allégations d'accaparement de terres pour la culture de l'huile de palme en Sierra Leone
- des commentaires et déclarations de Wilmar International de 2019 et 2016 sur les supposées violations des droits de l'homme et des travailleurs dans ses plantations d'huile de palme en Indonésie et ailleurs.]

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Article
8 July 2019

Friends of the Earth groups & supporters file OECD complaint against Dutch ING bank over palm oil financing

Author: Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands)

"Friends of the Earth groups and supporters file OECD complaint against ING for financing palm oil abuses", 5 July 2019

Today Friends of the Earth groups Milieudefensie (Netherlands), Sustainable Development Institute  (Liberia) and Wahana lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (Indonesia) file a complaint at Netherlands’ contact point for the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) against the Dutch bank ING Group.

The complaint concerns financing three palm oil companies: Noble Group, Bolloré Group/Socfin and Wilmar International. The complaint is related to these companies involvement in large-scale deforestation of tropical rainforest (Noble Group), land grabbing (Bolloré Group/Socfin) and child labor (Wilmar International).

The complainants demand that ING divests from these palm oil companies and the industrial palm oil sector as a whole. In addition, the organizations want the Dutch authorities to acknowledge that whilst the bank was aware of the harms, it did not act properly to address them, and therefore contributed to the harms...

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Article
8 July 2019

ING reaction to NCP notification on palm oil

Author: ING Group

5 July 2019

...The growing demand for palm oil across global supply chains raises questions about the environmental and social sustainability of palm oil plantations. Concerns include potential deforestation, loss of biodiversity and wildlife, unethical labour practices and the displacement of local communities. 

These are serious issues. On the other hand, alternative oil crops need seven to nine times more land...

We can’t always prevent environmental and social issues in our clients’ operations, but we can collaborate with them to find solutions...

In September 2018..., ING decided not to engage with new clients active as palm oil producers.. traders or refiners dedicated to palm oil...

At ING, we aim to use our leverage by engaging with our clients to improve their businesses... In total we finance less than ten clients that earn 10% or more from palm-oil-plantation-related activities. More than 85% of those clients currently have a ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitations’ policy in place. 

...As of 2020, we will report the number of clients that are RSPO certified.

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