Scandinavian banks linked to abuse of indigenous peoples’ rights in Borneo; banks respond

Silent-Approval-report-cover

Swedwatch and Fair Finance Guide Sweden allege in this report that Scandinavian banks have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that are linked to abuses of indigenous peoples’ rights in Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia shared by Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies named in this report to respond – the responses are linked below. The report itself also includes a number of company statements.

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Article
11 April 2017

Full report - "Silent Approval: The role of banks linked to the crisis faced by Borneo's indigenous peoples and their forests"

Author: Fair Finance Guide Sweden & Swedwatch

17 Mar 2017

…The destruction of Borneo’s forests has been referred to as one of the greatest environmental crimes of our time. The forest destruction and the dispossession of land from its traditional owners has resulted in a far-reaching human rights disaster. The report Silent Approval is based on an extensive field study in Borneo, which examines the impacts of four companies on indigenous peoples’ rights and links to seven Scandinavian banks. The results of the study show that all the banks invest in several of the companies and that the banks have not acted responsibly. Some of the companies were also included in the ethical funds of the banks. 

The report outlines the investments of the Scandinavian banks Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB, Skandia and Swedbank in four companies associated with risks and impacts on indigenous peoples and their forests in Borneo. The report shows that the banks are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the companies, and that none of them have taken appropriate action…

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Company response
11 April 2017

Nordea response

Author: Nordea Bank

24 Mar 2017

...The connection between Nordea, the companies and the site studied in the report is as follows; BHP Billiton is since October, 2016 no longer active in Borneo. The other companies discussed, we have no holdings in, or has not been caught in our norm-based screening. After the report was launched Nordea has conducted meetings with AAK, BHP Billiton and Deutsche Bank to discuss the raised allegations. Our general conclusion is that these companies are more advanced in their management of environmental risks than social risks, such as indigenous rights. Hence, we have made the companies aware of that improvements have to be made within this area...

Download the full document here

Company response
10 April 2017

SEB response

Author: SEB

…The situation in Borneo’s rainforest is tragic and involves a difficult situation for the indigenous population. Protection and respect for human rights should be central to the countries and companies with direct impact on the ground. We, as indirect and as a minority investor, take responsibility to influence and act for change.

At this stage SEB has no intention to divest the holdings in the four companies as we have an active dialogue with the companies and the views expressed in the report will instead be included and emphasized in the ongoing dialogues…

Download the full document here

Company response
10 April 2017

Skandia response

Author: Skandia

Mar 2017

…To ensure an objective assessment from several sources and perspectives, Skandia has three leading and independent service providers of sustainability analysis and incident tracking of all our investments.

If Skandia deems that a company has an unsatisfactory sustainability record or does not comply with international norms related to sustainability issues, the company is put on Skandia’s watchlist and an engagement process is initiated – either by Skandia or by one of our two suppliers of engagement services on our behalf. In those cases where we do not see a clear willingness towards more sustainable performance we will consider excluding that company from our investments. To date, Skandia has excluded a total of approx. 130 companies, of which five were related to unsustainable practices in forestry and/or palm oil plantations…

Download the full document here

Company response
9 April 2017

AAK response

Author: AAK

2 Mar 2017

…Key aspects of the implementation of AAK’s sustainable palm oil policy are traceability to mill and risk assessment. AAK recognises that alone we cannot address all of the issues of the palm oil industry in all locations. We can, and do understand the sources of palm oil purchased and have a strong process for selecting those requiring further investigation and support. Moreover, given our position in the supply chain as a trader and refiner, owning no palm oil production or milling facilities ourselves, we must seek to implement change on the ground by working with our suppliers. In some cases this involves assessing whether their own sustainability programmes are aligned with our own, and where this is the case and we are able to track their progress, we may choose not to intervene directly. This is the case with our suppliers in Borneo…

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Company response
9 April 2017

BHP Billiton response

Author: BHP Billiton

27 Mar 2017

…BHP Billiton adopted a cautious approach to developing IndoMet Coal. It conducted an extensive

Environment and Social Impact Assessment and separately conducted a High Conservation Value assessment, which was used to inform the IndoMet Coal Biodiversity Strategy.

In addition, prior to the commencement of the small 1mtpa Haju Mine, a formal Environmental and

Social Impact Assessment (AMDAL) process was undertaken consistent with Indonesian law but which additionally:

  • identified key environmental and social impacts so that appropriate management and monitoring plans could be developed;
  • engaged NGOs to identify environmental and social impacts and opportunities and, where possible, include them in plan development; and
  • involved extensive community and government engagement to seek local support and licence to operate for the project…

Download the full document here

Article
8 April 2017

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) response

27 Mar 2017

…RSPO has systems in place to ensure that oil coming from RSPO Certified plantations abides to the standards set by the RSPO. These systems include third party certification, a system of accreditation for certification bodies, and an open and transparent grievance mechanism, supply chain certification to the end user and traceability provided via the PalmTrace system. This said, every system can fail and can be improved.

To further strengthen its assurance framework and deliver the credibility demanded by stakeholders, RSPO welcomes a constructive dialogue with all interested parties in the framework of the RSPO Assurance Task Force…

Download the full document here