ESG / socially responsible investing (update 1a): RGE/APRIL and Roger Federer-Credit Suisse, Singapore Urges SEA Lenders to Better Screen Palm Oil Investment, Conservation International and Hollywood stars

Environmental and social governance or socially responsible investing is becoming an increasingly important topic as NGO advocacy campaigning on this steps up. We attended a recent talk in Singapore. Not surprisingly as the financial center for Southeast Asia, it was a core topic.

Read here: Singapore Dialogue (update 1a): SIIA / Simon Tay dialogue in Singapore centered on palm oil sustainability, Indonesia extends moratorium, ASEAN banks under WWF spotlight /khorreports-palmoil/2015/05/attended-siia-simon-tay-dialogue-in.html

Key recent reports include:
  • WWF: ASEAN regional banks and investors behind on Environmental, Social and Governance standards Posted on 13 May 2015; Singapore – A WWF report finds an alarming gap between regional ASEAN financial institutions and the environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards adopted by their international counterparts. 
  • TUK-Profundo report on top 25 tycoon-owned Indonesia palm oil groups and their financiers.

20 May 2015: Singapore Urges SEA Lenders to Better Screen Palm Oil Investment; Roger Federer-Credit Suisse answer on RGE/APRIL funding query and it's also important to note that USA NGOs have become more active in the soft commodity sector of Southeast Asia with notable Conservation International campaign with Hollywood stars as spokespersons.

Singapore Urges SEA Lenders to Better Screen Palm Oil Investment By Erwida Maulia on 09:07 pm May 17, 2015; Singapore. The Singaporean government has called on financial institutions operating in Southeast Asia to exercise caution in funneling funds to palm oil producers, saying scrutiny on the sector continues to intensify with recurring problems in transboundary haze. Banks have acted as an important source of capital for the region’s palm oil industry, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said last week. Citing a 2010 report by BankTrack, he said lenders provided an estimated 24 percent of the total financing needed for the sector globally, with more than $50 billion invested in the Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil sectors alone during the decade prior to the release of the study. “The number has grown significantly since then. And this includes local sources of capital from within Indonesia and Malaysia,” Balakrishnan said in a keynote speech during the second annual Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources held last Wednesday. With the recurring issue of transboundary haze, he added, calls have intensified for companies and individuals “all the way down” the supply chain to be held accountable for deforestation — the main culprit behind recurring forest fires in Indonesia and haze affecting neighbors Singapore and Malaysia. “Due to the environmental scrutiny and the campaigns by environmental NGOs, banks have now also become part of the watch list,” the minister said. “And my plea to you, therefore, is please pay attention to this and remember the questions will be asked not only of the companies involved, but also of the financiers and the banks behind the industry.” Balakrishnan added that lenders and other financial institutions are now expected to be more responsible in conducting background checks on palm oil companies. It is not enough to merely see whether their clients would be able to pay their loans and interest rates, he said. How the companies derive their resources, their methods of production, the environmental, social and even political risks they face all must be assessed before banks decide whether they should invest in the business. “These [steps] have to become part and parcel of standard due diligence,” Balakrishnan said.......

Roger Federer encourages rainforest campaigners 19.05.2015; Tennis star asks Credit Suisse to review the bank’s business relationship with Indonesian pulp and paper group RGE/APRIL (BASEL, SWITZERLAND / PULAU PADANG, RIAU, INDONESIA) Tennis star Roger Federer is calling on Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank, to review their business relationship with RGE/APRIL, an Indonesian pulp and paper group that is responsible for the wide-spread clearcutting of rainforests in the Indonesian province of Riau (Sumatra). Federer was approached last month by Isnadi Esman and Woro Supartinah, two Indonesian activists who had travelled to Switzerland to protest against a 50 million Euro loan granted by Credit Suisse to RGE/APRIL.  “I have learnt about your letter to me, outlining the difficult rainforest situation in Riau”, Federer writes to the Indonesian campaigners. “I take your concerns seriously. In response to your letter and as ambassador for Credit Suisse, I would like to emphasize that I will advocate for and have complete trust that they analyse such issues thoroughly, evaluate all options and that their decisions are well thought out.” The tennis star continues: “Additionally, I encourage you to continue the ongoing dialogue with Credit Suisse in order to minimize any sustainability issues and increase the common understanding.” On 24 April 2015, Isnadi and Woro informed Credit Suisse’s top management on RGE/APRIL’s conduct in Riau at the bank’s annual general meeting in Zurich. The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Joachim Oechslin, promised to personally vet every potential future transaction with the Indonesian group. RGE/APRIL has been accused of illegal logging, peatland clearing and numerous human rights violations in their operations in Riau. Credit Suisse, together with a number of Chinese banks, are the Indonesian group’s main financial backers.

Conservation International. US NGO with Hollywood stars. Published on 5 Oct 2014: Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey, Edward Norton, Penélope Cruz, Robert Redford and Ian Somerhalder all join forces to give nature a voice. Watch the films and take action at Youtube vids here:
  • Nature Is Speaking – Edward Norton is The Soil | Conservation International (CI) by ConservationDotOrg 317,373 views 1:26
  • Nature Is Speaking – Penélope Cruz is Water | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  208,102 views 1:29 
  • Nature Is Speaking – Kevin Spacey is The Rainforest | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  405,505 views 1:46 
  • Nature Is Speaking – Harrison Ford is The Ocean | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  550,312 views 2:04 
  • Nature Is Speaking – Lupita Nyong'o is Flower | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  439,588 views 1:36 
  • Nature Is Speaking – Robert Redford is The Redwood | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  145,790 views
  • Nature Is Speaking – Ian Somerhalder is Coral Reef | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  285,954 views 1:37 
  • Nature Is Speaking – Julia Roberts is Mother Nature | Conservation International (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  1,380,592 views 1:59 
  • Nature Is Speaking: Tang Wei is Flower - 大自然在說話:湯唯聲演「花」| 保護國際基金會 (CI)   by ConservationDotOrg  5,727 views