Amsterdam, July 3rd 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).
“We have been informing ING of the abuses in the industrial palm oil sector since the beginning of this century,” said Evert Hassink, Milieudefensie. “But ING continued to finance these palm oil companies. The bank wants to engage with these companies and in this way seduce them into more sustainable choices. But after all these years it has become clear that this dialogue has yielded nothing substantial.”
Oslan Purba, head of programmes at WALHI: “The industrial palm oil sector has been one of the main drivers of deforestation in Indonesia. The palmoil sector is using influence over the Indonesian government to protect their interests. Every Euro European financiers have been putting into rogue companies meant further expansion of plantations onto peoples lands and into forests. Illegalities in the palm oil sector undermine the impact of the Indonesian moratorium on the expansion of industrial activities into primary forests and peat areas.”
James Otto, programme manager at SDI, says that ”Liberia is at the frontier of industrial palm oil developments in West Africa and our people are suffering from human rights violations. Workers’ rights and child labor are two of our concerns and violations are systemic in the exploitative model of industrial palm oil production. The largest remaining forest areas of the Upper Guinea Forest face depletion if these companies continue to do business as usual.”
The complaint is supported by evidence on misconduct by three customers of ING:
- The Noble Group is responsible for the deforestation of thousands of hectares of tropical rainforest in Indonesia.
- Research and interviews with local communities in Indonesia and Liberia indicate that Wilmar International is involved in violations of labor rights, including child labor.
- On Bolloré/Socfin plantations, various abuses have been documented in the area of human rights in Cameroon and Sierra Leone, including violations of land rights and the right to safety and privacy.
Consequences for ING
If the Dutch contact point upholds the allegations, this can have consequences for ING. It can be excluded from trade missions, subsidies and government support abroad. More importantly, it sets a precedent for other banks on how to comply with the OECD Guidelines and increases the chances that communities get redress. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises clarify what governments expect from companies in the field of corporate social responsibility. They indicate how companies should deal with human rights, child labour, the environment and corruption.
French authorities have already established that ING customer Socfin, did not comply with the guidelines. Several other financial institutions have terminated their relationships with controversial palm oil companies, including the Noble Group. The Norwegian Government Pension Fund, for example, stopped financing no fewer than 33 different palm oil companies. In the Netherlands, insurance company Aegon divested completely from the palm oil sector.
Various other NGOs, such as ReAct, Brot für alle, FIAN Belgium, CNCD-11.11.11 and FERN, support the filing of this complaint against ING by the Friends of the Earth groups.