USA: Indigenous women file OECD Specific Instance against Credit Suisse for rights violations regarding pipeline financing; Credit Suisse responds

On January 30, 2020, Divest Invest ProtectWomen’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, and Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program at the University of Arizona filed an OECD Guidelines complaint with the US National Contact Point regarding Credit Suisse and adverse impacts to Indigenous peoples and the environment through the bank's finance to firms that built the Dakota Access Pipeline and Bayou Bridge Pipeline. The complaint highlights violations of indigenous peoples' right to free, prior, and informed consent and environmental harms through continued finance to fossil fuel companies.

According to one of the Indigenous women who filed the complaint, Michelle Cook, a Dine' (Navajo) human rights lawyer, Founder of ‘Divest Invest Protect’ and Co-Director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations, "The OECD Specific Instance prepared and filed by indigenous women will bring much-needed attention to the structural failures of the financial industry to adhere and align with indigenous people’s human rights.  We are confident that our filing and engagement will expose the dangerous loopholes that allow banks and businesses to act with impunity over our cultural survival, climate, and futures. The financial sector must listen to the movements of indigenous peoples, and guarantee that human rights and indigenous peoples rights to free, prior, and informed consent will be respected and protected throughout their supply chains, in all their business relationships irrespective of the type of finance or financial product the banks have provided.” 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Credit Suisse to respond; the bank's response is included below.

More information about the Dakota Access Pipeline project is available here.

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Company response
26 May 2020

Response from Credit Suisse

Author: Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse is engaging with the US NCP on this matter.

Credit Suisse carries out a series of measures to assess 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 (such as climate change) and human rights-related risks are some of the risks considered in that process, in line with the expectations expressed in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. 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.

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Article
14 February 2020

Indigenous women file OECD Specific Instance against Credit Suisse for rights violations regarding pipeline financing

Author: Women's Earth & Climate Action Network International (WECAN)

The filing by Indigenous women, comes after an almost two year period of WECAN and DIP exchanges with Credit Suisse... Indigenous women have maintained good faith dialogue with Credit Suisse, however, due to a lack of action by Credit Suisse, they are lodging an OECD Specific Instance in hopes that it will act as a catalyst for action.

... Recently, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and Credit Suisse concluded a mediation process via the OECD, which led to Credit Suisse incorporating the protection of Indigenous communities’ rights into its internal guidelines on project financing... The [filing organisations] welcome this partial victory, however... this outcome is not sufficient, because the Indigenous rights provision does not apply to corporate finance— the type of financing Credit Suisse uses to fund the firms who built and maintain the Dakota Access Pipeline.

... "The financial sector must listen to the movements of indigenous peoples, and guarantee that human rights and indigenous peoples rights to free, prior, and informed consent will be respected and protected throughout their supply chains, in all their business relationships irrespective of the type of finance or financial product the banks have provided.”  Michelle Cook, Dine' (Navajo) human rights lawyer, Founder of ‘Divest Invest Protect’ and Co-Director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations... 

... "In 2014 prior to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) our Tribal Council informed the company that wanted to build DAPL, that they would not and could not consent to the construction of this pipeline. The danger was too close and an oil spill would be disastrous for our eight communities on Standing Rock... During that time my four children and I witnessed firsthand the extreme and brutal human rights abuses... includ[ing]: private security contractors using attack dogs on unarmed people (including myself), being terrorized by low flying aircraft that circled our camps 24 hours a day, to shooting our horses and people by law enforcement... It is time to hold the decision makers, government officials and financial institutions ACCOUNTABLE." Wašté Wi Yellow Lodge-Young, Lakota/Dakota, Standing Rock Nation

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Article
13 February 2020

Indigenous women accuse Credit Suisse of rights violations for continuing to bankroll fossil fuels

Author: Karen Savage, Drilled News

Three Native American women have accused the global banking giant Credit Suisse of violating the human rights of Indigenous peoples, and have asked the firm to stop financing companies that are building and maintaining two oil pipelines in the United States... In a formal complaint... the women said that Credit Suisse failed to ensure that the companies working on the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, as well the multi-state Dakota Access Pipeline, followed the organization’s guidelines for consulting with and seeking consent from nearby Indigenous communities regarding the pipelines.

... The complaint comes after two years of discussions with Credit Suisse, said Osprey Orielle Lake,executive director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network "Every time we met with them they would say, ‘We are not investing in projects, we are only investing in the overall corporate structure of that company and giving them money — we have no say where that money goes... You cannot give to a company that is committing Indigenous or human rights violations and lift your hands and say, 'We have nothing to do with this because we're not involved with that project directly.'”... Lake said by continuing to provide the companies with general funding despite the evidence of abuses related to the Dakota Access Pipeline, Credit Suisse allowed the same companies to again harm Indigenous peoples and the environment in 2018, during construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.

... Lake said Credit Suisse’s continued financing of the companies behind the pipelines is further evidence that both its internal guidelines, as well as the resolution of the 2017 complaint, have not led to recognition and observance of Indigenous rights.

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Article
30 January 2020

Indigenous women and WECAN vs. Credit Suisse

Author: OECD Watch

On 30 January 2020, indigenous women in the United States and WECAN filed an OECD Guidelines complaint against Credit Suisse for contributing to adverse impacts to Indigenous peoples and the environment through continued corporate finance to firms that built the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP)... he complaint highlights Credit Suisse's breaches of the OECd Guidelines on General Policies (disclosure and stakeholder consultation), Human Rights, and the Environment. This case follows on a recent related case filed against Credit Suisse by the Swiss-based the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), also regarding the bank's involvement in financing DAPL. That case concluded in 2019 and led to Credit Suisse incorporating the protection of Indigenous communities’ rights into its internal guidelines on project financing. This case, however, specifically addresses the bank's contribution to harm through its corporate lending, not project financing.

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