"NGOs can and want to help banks and investors address companies about their negative impact on people, animals and the planet. Sharing knowledge and looking for good moments to increase pressure makes sense."
In the past year, NGOs asked insurers, pension funds and banks to use their shareholder status to change the harmful behavior of companies they invest in, through meaningful and time-bound dialogues and/or by exerting pressure. The past year has shown that this kind of shareholder pressure works, as Peter Ras of Fair Finance Netherlands explains with 8 examples from different industries.
"Asian financial institutions play a key role in overall economic development by funding diverse projects and sectors, thereby significantly impacting the trajectory of regional growth and recovery."
Based on current trajectory predictions, the Asia Pacific region is on track to achieve just 10 percent of its SDG targets by 2030. Fair Finance Asia's Bernadette Victorio and World Benchmarking Alliance's Namit Agarwal discuss Asia's road to sustainability and the role of the financial sector.
"It is a huge step forward that the Norwegian Parliament has so clearly emphasized that the wellbeing of animals is a fundamental ethical norm to be taken into account when investing government funds.”
The Norwegian Oil Fund is one of the world’s largest asset owners, and a major shareholder in international meat and dairy corporations. Jennifer Black of World Animal Protection writes about the implications of the recent decision by the Norwegian Parliament to recognise violations of animal welfare as justification for exclusion of companies from the fund.
"Just like in non-indigenous society, there is a diversity of views, dreams and experiences that must be respected. Don't try to make indigenous people seem less indigenous because they don't fit outdated stereotypes."
Idec, lead partner with Fair Finance Brazil, highlights nine actions that every non-indigenous person can take to help support the cultures of native peoples - from demanding responsible investments from banks, to consuming responsibly, to looking up indigenous histories.
"The flurry of announcements diverts attention from what is actually happening in practice, with an imminent risk of ‘greenwashing’ as big businesses bluff the public in to thinking they are taking meaningful action."
More and more banks and fossil fuel companies are releasing plans to align their financial operations with the Paris Agreement, and announcing ‘Net Zero by 2050’ commitments. Moving to Net Zero will require significant changes in current business practices, and Kees Kodde of Fair Finance International explains this is where the exploitation of loopholes comes in.
"Not having policies extending to the entire business supply chains has an adverse impact on the working conditions of women. In a recent case a women worker was murdered after being sexually harassed by her supervisor. The supplier in question did not take any active action against the perpetrator."
Shreya Kaushik of Oxfam India outlines the role of financial institutions in ensuring corporate accountability for women's rights and opportunities in India.
"The Covid 19 pandemic has widened the poverty gap for women. The policies and practices of financial institutions can play a significant role in closing this gender gap. Our research however shows financial institutions still have major gender blind-spots."
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the strides taken towards a more gender equal world, but more importantly to spotlight where much more needs to be done. Fair Finance International identifies 5 key recommendations for action by the financial sector.
"Every International Women's Day we discuss the lack of opportunities for women, even though it is 50 years since the beginning of the contemporary feminist movement."
Brazilian banks do not recruit women in to the majority of senior positions, and financial inclusion of women remains a major challenge. In short Brazilian banks are not doing enough to ensure gender equality, argues Ione Amorin of Fair Finance Guide Brazil.
"As voting results are publicly visible, major shareholders need to show their true colours. Their promises of mitigating climate change and respecting social standards must be reflected in their voting behaviour."
With resolutions at annual general meetings, investors have the opportunity to push the business activities of companies to a more ecological and social approach. Richard Buch of Fair Finance Germany explains what an assessment of voting shareholder behaviour in Germany means for climate protection.
"We arranged a confidential meeting with representatives of banks, insurers, pension funds, where they could hear directly from affected communities and experts."
Following the launch of the Dutch report Funding destruction of the Amazon and Cerrado, there was a highly successful public campaign. But once the news cycle had inevitably moved on, Julia Bakker of Fair Finance Netherlands explains the next step they took to address this issue.
Are political and business interests driving deforestation in Brazil?
In 2019 as deforestation alerts in the Amazon increased 34,5% over 7000 sq km of the Amazon was deforested, whilst in the neighbouring Cerrado savannah – Brazil’s second largest biome - over 4000 sq km of vegetation was destroyed. Gustavo Machado de Mela of Fair Finance Brazil asks Professor Raoni Rajão of the Federal University of Minas Gerais to explain some key drivers of deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado regions of Brazil.
Is European financing destroying the Amazon?
From 2015 to 2020, 33 major European based Financial Institutions invested a combined total of 20 billion US$ in companies directly linked to climate-changing deforestation in Brazil. Julia Dubslaff and Gustavo Machado de Melo from the Fair Finance International network explain the links between the fires burning in the Amazon and European markets and financial institutions.
"Soy, beef pasture, corn, cotton, and sugarcane crops have replaced 870,000 sq km of biodiverse forest and savannah in Brazil. These commodities are driving catastrophic changes in land use, contributing to biodiversity loss and environmental destruction."
Unless Financial Institutions urgently address their role in funding deforestation through 5 key steps, the Amazon and the battle against climate breakdown will be lost, says Gustavo Machado de Melo of Fair Finance Guide Brazil.
"Banking scandals have made it clear that it is almost impossible for a public consumer to access information on whether a Danish bank or pension fund is operating responsibly."
As public pressure for a responsible financial sector grows, Oxfam IBIS believes that ethics and sustainability must become a competitive factor in the Danish banking sector - and that the way to achieve it is with a Fair Finance Guide in Denmark.
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