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Swedish banks investing in Borneo deforestation

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Is your pension fund invested in deforestation? Today, on International Day of Forests we take the chance to highlight a new report from Swedwatch and Fair Finance Guide that is showing how seven of Sweden's largest banks are investing billions in companies linked to deforestation and violations of indigenous people in Borneo.

The new report Silent Approval - The role of banks linked to the crises faced by Borneo’s indigenous peoples and their forests shows that Swedish banks invest billions in companies linked to activities resulting in rain forest degradation and deforestation, as well as violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in Borneo. The report shows links to seven banks in Sweden: Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB, Skandia and Swedbank. According to the report all seven banks are investing in several of these audited companies, but none of them have acted sufficiently to take responsibility for their environmental and social impacts. Some of the companies were even found in the banks' ethical funds.

Over the last decades in Borneo, huge areas have been deforested and converted into other land uses, including palm oil plantations and mines. Across Borneo people have lost their traditional agricultural land and forest, and seen their communities disintegrate. Before the land use change, the communities’ livelihoods often relied on a combination of hunting and gathering in the remaining secondary forests, shifting cultivation and small-scale cash crop plantations such as rice, cocoa and vegetables. The report shows strong indications that the communities’ livelihoods deteriorated as their ability to engage in agriculture decreased, and they lost access to their forests for hunting, gathering, and traditional ceremonies and practices.

The situation in Borneo is alarming, according to Frida Arounsavath, researcher at Swedwatch and author of the report. In meetings with people from different indigenous groups she was told the same story over and over - that they had been deprived of their agricultural land and forest without being asked or compensated. Frida concludes that the Swedish banks have not put enough pressure on the companies to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, which she finds extremely serious.

Dowload the report here.