Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Press Release - Appeal to HSBC to become more accountable in palm oil sector

20 November, 2008

A new report by the Forest Peoples Programme launched today demands greater accountability from HSBC, the biggest bank funding the palm oil sector in South East Asia. The fast-expanding palm oil sector is known to be a major driver of deforestation and the take-over of indigenous peoples' lands without their consent. Conflicts between indigenous peoples and palm oil companies are widespread in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The report exposes inconsistencies between the HSBC's commitment to sustainability and accountability and its practice. It turns out that commercial confidentiality rules prevent HSBC revealing which palm oil companies are its clients.

    'The HSBC is seen as a leader in the banking sector. But the fact is that, from the point of view of impacted communities, the bank provides no means for people to know if HSBC is financing the companies that they may be in conflict with for taking over their lands' says Marcus Colchester, Director of the Forest Peoples Programme. 'Our report is meant to promote greater accountability'.

Based on diligent sleuthing of the internet and researching background documentation, the new report identifies the 17 major palm oil groups which are among HSBC's clients and explains some of the contradictions between HSBC's policy on forests and forest products and the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

HSBC is a member of RSPO and sits on the Executive Board of the RSPO, which is meeting in Bali this week. The first principle of the RSPO Standard is a commitment to transparency. The report recommends that HSBC:

    * Revises the HSBC Forest policy to bring it into line with the RSPO standard
    * Asks its clients in the palm oil sector to waive the commercial confidentiality rule so it can encourage accountable relations between companies, financiers and communities
    * Adopts a grievance mechanism so impacted communities can resolve their concerns

ENDS
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For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Forest Peoples Programme: +44 (0)1608652893, info@forestpeoples.org

Notes to Editors
1. Copies of the report 'HSBC and the Palm Oil Sector in South East Asia: towards accountability' are available at the RSPO meeting and are available here on the FPP website - see related reports.
2. The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is made up of the major companies in the palm oil sector, as well as social and environmental NGOs, which have agreed the need to reform the sector so it meets international standards on the environment, human rights, workers' conditions and best management practices. The RSPO standard was adopted at the 3rd RSPO Roundtable (see www.rspo.org).
3. Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) is an international NGO, founded in 1990 to promote forest peoples' rights. FPP supports forest peoples in their efforts to secure and sustainably manage their forests, lands and livelihoods. For further information visit the website at www.forestpeoples.org