Two of the big four banks take action to respect land rights

Banks & Land Grabs, Campaigning for change, Food & climate change, Success stories article written on the 27 Nov 2014

Photo: Vlad Sohkin/OxfamAUS

Westpac and National Australia Bank (NAB) have become the first of the big four banks to release a policy on land grabs — a significant step forward to stop unfair land deals that leave people around the world homeless and hungry.

Following on from NAB’s trailblazing announcement last week, Westpac this week announced their own policy stating they would not finance agribusiness companies that violated the rights of local communities.

Since the release of Oxfam’s report “Banking on Shaky Ground”, tens of thousands of Australians have rallied to put pressure on the big four banks by writing letters directly to their bank, signing  petitions, raising awareness via social media and using their power as shareholders.

Significantly, 8,000 Australians wrote directly to their bank; expressing concern that their bank adopt policies to avoid backing companies involved in land grabs. Since April, 17,000 people have signed a petition calling for the banks to take action on land grabs.

What has NAB announced?

At a glance, NAB’s policy includes:

  • A commitment to not lend to companies where credible evidence exists that these companies have engaged in land grabbing
  • A commitment to work with the finance sector to improve the transparency around investments that involve land acquisition
  • A requirement for companies to which it provides support (including loans), to be able to prove (by 2020) that they are respecting the land rights of local and Indigenous communities.

What has Westpac announced?

At a glance, Westpac’s policy includes:

  • Recognising the importance of all communities’ rights to provide free, prior and informed consent on land deals; and
  • Coverage of companies that Westpac finances that grow, process, manufacture or distribute palm oil, soy and timber, and states that the bank won’t fund companies that negatively impact on important conservation forests or violate the rights of workers.

Thanks to your support, NAB and Westpac have made a commitment to the issue of land grabs. This is a tremendous first step towards a world where Australian banks no longer support companies that land grab and we congratulate the NAB and Westpac on this improvement to banking industry practice.

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