Holding HSBC to account
Part of FPP’s role is to hold the private sector to account to reduce the harm that private sector loans have on indigenous peoples.
HSBC is a key funder of the palm oil sector, acting as a principal banker for 15 of the 17 main palm oil business groups
Together with research organisation, Profundo, FPP wrote a report on HSBC’s investments in the palm oil sector, HSBC and the palm oil sector in south-east Asia: towards accountability, demonstrating that HSBC’s standards relating to the organisations they invest in are lower than those of the RSPO. Moreover, despite a claim of ‘commitment to transparency’, HSBC does not disclose which palm oil companies it funds and how they measure up against its policy and standard.
Following publication of the report, there was wide media coverage and HSBC announced that it would exit its relationship with any clients that are making no progress towards meeting the HSBC forestry policy.
Why engage with the private sector?
Like it or not, the private sector has direct and extensive impacts on forests and forest peoples. FPP supports forest peoples’ campaigns to get the private sector to adopt a rights-based approach to doing business. Changing policy within the private sector can bring direct benefits to forest peoples by securing respect for their rights to tenure, rights to FPIC, customary rights, basic rights to health, life and to civil and political rights and freedoms. By getting involved in the discussions at the RSPO and The Forests Dialogue (TFD), FPP can and does ensure the incorporation of a rights based approach to business impacting on forest peoples.
The Forests Dialogue (TFD)
The Forests Dialogue (TFD) is a ‘multi-stakeholder’ process originally set up by the world’s largest forestry companies and large conservation NGOs which is administered by a small secretariat located in the Forestry School of Yale University (USA). Many of the companies involved are members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
TFD aims to provide a shared forum in which NGOs and companies can explore contentious issues and identify the ‘fracture lines’ which divide opinions and form barriers to the realisation of ‘sustainable forest management’. Dialogues have explored issues such as forestry certification, biodiversity conservation and illegal logging.
Since 2005, TFD has given greater attention to social issues and the rights of forest peoples, partly as a result of the engagement of the Forest Peoples Programme, which is currently represented on TFD’s steering committee. FPP has also helped TFD reach out to indigenous peoples and other social groups to ensure that social issues are addressed and that rights-holders are part of the dialogues.
Recent dialogues have thus focused on Intensively Managed Planted Forests, Forestry and Poverty, Indigenous and Locally Controlled Forests and three dialogue streams on Climate and Forests, REDD Preparedness and REDD Finance. The outputs from all these dialogues have highlighted the importance of equity, labour rights, land tenure, respect for customary rights and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
A new dialogue on how companies can ‘operationalise’ FPIC effectively is scheduled to commence in 2010.
Palm Oil and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a global initiative to promote the sustainable production and trade of palm oil. Its members are large plantation companies, smallholders, processors, manufacturers and retailers of palm oil products, and NGOs.
Since 2003 FPP has helped create space for indigenous and local communities and smallholders to have a stronger voice in the RSPO.
Working closely with FPP's partner Sawit Watch (which sits on the RSPO Board), we ensured that RSPO's standards require member companies to respect indigenous peoples' customary rights and FPIC. FPIC is now endorsed by the RSPO as a key principle in its Principles and Criteria.