Range of human rights abuses by extractive companies allegedly tied to European financial institutions: companies respond to Facing Finance report

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"The global extractives industry is heavily involved in some of the worst labour, environmental and human rights violations. The rights of communities, farmers and indigenous people are being trampled in the push for ever more extraction. Indeed all businesses must respect and contribute to the society where they operate, and investors too have a critical role to play, particularly in the current mining upturn.

In Dirty Profits 6 Facing Finance shows how extractive companies have dealt with human rights and environmental violations shown in Dirty Profits reports since 2012, as well as how selected European banks have reacted to these violations in their provision of finance over time."

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited 10 extractive companies and 10 banks mentioned in the report to respond - the following 18 companies responded:

  • Anglo American
  • Barrick Gold
  • BHP Billiton
  • Eni SpA
  • Glencore
  • Goldcorp
  • Rio Tinto
  • Vale
  • Barclays
  • BNP Paribas
  • Credit Agricole
  • Credit Suisse
  • Deutsche Bank
  • DZ Bank
  • HSBC
  • ING
  • Rabobank
  • UBS

Gazprom and Grupo Mexico did not respond.

Concerns are related to human rights impacts including labour rights, environmental pollution, indigenous rights, land rights, intimidation of project opponents, and violence including rape and murder by security forces at project sites.

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Company response
16 July 2018

Anglo American response

"We take this opportunity to provide an update on issues raised with regards to Cerrejon, silicosis and deep sea mining as well as a more detailed response to issues raised about the Minas-Rio operation in Brazil. We address the issues in the order of appearance in Facing Finance’s publication... As stated in the report, Anglo American is co-shareholder with BHP Billiton and Glencore (each holding a one third interest) in Cerrejon.  We are aware of the detailed response given by Cerrejon to the authors of the report, in particular noting the inaccurate presentation of the information, which risks leaving the reader with a distorted view of a complex reality... Through our active participation in an Occupational Lung Disease Working Group, which was formed in 2014, Anglo American South Africa (AASA) ‒ together with five other mining companies (African Rainbow Minerals, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater) – concluded a settlement agreement on 3 May 2018 in the silicosis and tuberculosis class-action litigation with the claimants’ lawyers...The parties believe the settlement represents a fair outcome for claimants, and a sustainable outcome for the companies..."

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Company response
16 July 2018

Barclays response

"Barclays recognises that the bank’s major impacts tend to be indirect, via business relationships, arising from the provision of financial services to business customers operating in sensitive sectors. Appropriate risk management of environmental and social impacts is both a business imperative and the right thing to do. Our dedicated environmental risk management team, part of the central credit risk function, manages our approach which is a combination of policy, standards and guidance to assess individual transactions and relationships.

As part of this, Barclays fulfils the requirements of the Equator Principles (EP) (of which Barclays was a founding member), an internationally recognised framework for environmental and social risk due diligence in project finance. Rigorous adherence to the provisions of the Equator Principles ensures that Barclays would only proceed with certain transactions if potentially adverse environmental and social impacts are appropriately mitigated. We have developed a series of briefing notes available to colleagues in business development and credit risk functions outlining the nature of environmental and social risks of which to be aware, as well as factors which mitigate those risks. These cover ten industries, including a Metals and Mining Environmental and Social Risk Briefing which incorporates human rights issues into the assessment of financial transactions and business relationships..."

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Company response
16 July 2018

Barrick Gold response

"The report raises several troubling and at times inaccurate allegations about either Barrick’s or its affiliate’s environmental and human rights performance. Many of these matters have been discussed in considerable detail in the past, so rather than repeat that information here, we provide a higher-level response and point interested readers to further information.

Before doing so, we want to signal our agreement with the authors’ view on the importance of transparency and dialogue between companies and its stakeholders. In this vein, we first share some of the steps taken to provide information to our financial and other stakeholders on our toughest environmental, social, and human rights issues, as well as the ways we are listening to their concerns and interests in the first place.

We do this in the belief that transparency - whether through disclosing our salient human rights risks, our tax and royalty payments to governments, or how much energy and water we use - is integral to being a trusted partner of anyone with whom we interact..."

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Company response
16 July 2018

BHP Billiton response

"...We would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on a recent development with Samarco. At the link below you will find an explanation of an agreement made in the late June 2018 between BHP, Vale, Samarco, other parties to the Framework Agreement, the Public Prosecutors Office and the Public Defense Office in Brazil (noting that this agreement is conditioned on the Federal Government signing the agreement, and also that it is subject to court ratification)...

As we said in our letter last year, with the enhanced depth and analysis across our governance of NOJVs, our approach to human rights, Indigenous peoples and the environment, we continue to strengthen our approach to working with communities. We strive to ensure our assets are world class financially, environmentally and socially, and to encourage greater investment interest and community support to have us as a preferred operator in the respective regions..."

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Article
16 July 2018

BNP Paribas response

"BNP Paribas is a global bank that finances all the sectors of the economy. The Group is a leader in financing oil & gas and other extractive industries. That's why, being committed to financing the economy in an ethical manner, we decided as soon as 2013 to develop both a mining and an oil sands policy, that is to say a voluntarily framework to manage the environmental and social impacts of its financing and investment in these sectors. The oil sands policy has been broaden in 2017 to cover the whole unconventional oil & gas sector: the Group no longer supports companies whose principal business activity is the exploration, production, distribution, marketing or trading of oil and gas from shale and/or oil from tar sands and has also ceased financing of projects that are primarily involved in the transportation or export of oil and gas from shale or oil from tar sands..."

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Company response
16 July 2018

Credit Agricole response

“Crédit Agricole has published a Mining & Metal Policy, and expects its clients to develop good working practices and behavior to limit their Environmental & Social impacts in line with this Policy, to adhere to industry good practice principles (such as those defined by the ICMM or the World Bank group and the relevant industry initiatives) and to respect the principles and rules adopted by the OECD, SEC and EU with respect to payment disclosure and responsible supply chains.

The regulatory framework in which the client evolves should lead to the respect of the principles of the Policy for the activities located in High Income OECD Countries. In other countries, the client policy is assessed towards the principles of the Bank Policy on the occasion of the annual review of the relationship. Supporting or belonging to ICMM association, EITI and the industry initiatives listed in our policy, as relevant, are a strong element of assessment. The bank also assess whether the client monitors and assesses impacts and mitigation measures, and is publicly reporting on these aspects (website, annual report…).”

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Company response
16 July 2018

Credit Suisse response

“Due to legal restrictions and as a matter of policy Credit Suisse is not in a position to comment on presumed, allegedly existing or non-existing client relationships.

In general, Credit Suisse carries out a series of measures to review business risks. If there are grounds to believe that a potential transaction or client relationship could pose an unacceptable risk or is not compatible with our existing agreements or internal guidelines, Credit Suisse conducts a bank-wide standardized Reputational Risk Review Process. Environmental and human rights-related risks are some of the risks considered in that process. Credit Suisse evaluates whether the potential client’s activities are consistent with the relevant industry standards and whether the transaction is compatible with Credit Suisse’s own policies and guidelines for sensitive sectors. Our sector policies and guidelines take into account standards developed by international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank and set out environmental and social standards that we expect clients operating in certain sensitive sectors to comply with when conducting their activities. They cover topics including: compliance with industry-specific, internationally recognized standards on the environment and human rights; measures to assess and reduce the environmental impact of operations; the protection of the health and safety of company employees and surrounding communities; respect for the human rights of the local population; and business areas and practices that Credit Suisse explicitly will not finance..."

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Company response
16 July 2018

Deutsche Bank response

"Deutsche Bank aims to avoid environmental and social (ES) risks that might result from its business activities. In our publically available ES Policy Framework1 we explain our approach to identifying risks related to new business opportunities and which measures we undertake in case we see a need for action. Furthermore, we explain which transactions are generally prohibited.

In case issues occur in connection with an existing business relationship, we generally consult the affected stakeholders. In this context, we seek the exchange with the company and the affected people as well as with NGOs, who might dispose of a good knowledge of the conditions on the ground. In our assessment, we also consider the political and legal circumstances in the respective country, to what extend the affected people have the opportunity to defend their own interests. In specific cases, we also make use of independent experts to evaluate the situation. Based on the results of the analysis we decide on the further procedure. However, this is still depending on our contractual obligations as well as on our leverage. As a last resort in some cases, this can lead to a termination of the business relationship..."

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Company response
16 July 2018

DZ BANK response

“DZ BANK places a lot of emphasis on sustainability. For example, promoting renewable energies is important to us – we are one of the leading banks in this field in Germany. Moreover, when granting loans we have been checking the sustainability of the borrower or financing project for many years now. This involves ecological and social risks. We also want to continue to improve in the future - regular dialogue with NGOs such as Facing Finance helps us to do this. Of course, we are also in contact with the companies themselves, observe very closely what is happening in individual sectors and expand our exclusion criteria accordingly. In 2017, we decided to reject new requests to finance coal-fired power plants.”

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Company response
16 July 2018

Eni S.p.A. response

"In connection with the oil spill which allegedly affected the Ikebiri community in 2010, NAOC has actively engaged with representatives of the Ikebiri community and confirms that it has promptly and effectively cleaned up the affected area which was re-inspected by the relevant regulatory agencies in Nigeria and confirmed as satisfactory. NAOC has also been addressing compensation issues with the affected members of the Community. It is necessary to note, however, that in view of the numerous illegal activities carried out in the area, it is impossible to establish a correlation between the alleged harm suffered by the Ikebiri population and the oil spill in question. More generally, the difficult environmental situation of the Niger Delta is a regional issue, which the Government of Nigeria is addressing as a matter of policy; NAOC company standards have been continuously improved over the last years to ensure a more effective response to oil spills, even if (as is normally the case) the same are attributable to third party actions (bunkering, thefts)..."

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