The risky business behind ANZ’s bumper profits

Campaigns and Advocacy, GROW, Media Releases, News article written on the 01 May 2014

ANZ’s bumper $3.4 billion profit announced this morning comes days after an Oxfam report called on the bank to provide compensation to families and communities who have lost land, homes and livelihoods because of land grabbing practices by ANZ backed companies in South East Asia.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the report, Banking on Shaky Ground – Australia’s big four banks and land grabs – highlighted the plight of more than 1000 families who were forcibly removed from their homes in Cambodia in 2010 to make way for sugar crops, with only $100 in compensation for the land that once provided them with food and a livelihood.

“While today’s results suggest that expansion into the Asian region is profitable, Oxfam’s report highlighted a number of questionable practices sitting behind this Asian growth,” Dr Szoke said.

“It also outlined the significant financial risk associated with the ANZ’s backing of companies involved in land grabbing.

“If land is acquired without proper consent or payment, leases that the ANZ is financially involved in are at risk of being revoked, exposing the ANZ’s profits.”

Dr Szoke said that in response to Oxfam’s report this week, the ANZ had claimed to take its social and environmental concerns seriously throughout its business.

“Whilst this is encouraging to hear, families are still awaiting adequate compensation for being ripped from their homes and their land,” Dr Szoke said.

Dr Szoke said two months ago, Oxfam had presented ANZ with credible evidence of the involvement of a number of clients in alleged land-grabbing practices.

“In the face of horrific and well-substantiated allegations, the ANZ has so far refused to take any action to be transparent about its clients and its possible exposure to land grabbing, or commit to a policy to address this issue,” Dr Szoke said.

“The response to our report from both the community and the investment sector has been overwhelmingly positive; it’s clear that the investment sector is very concerned about expansion into the Asia-Pacific without clear due diligence measures and governance frameworks in place that are actually practiced on the ground.

“Our report does raise serious questions – questions which the banks have so far failed to answer with anything other than platitudes about their commitment to sustainability.

“What Oxfam and investors are looking for is decisive action similar to that taken by corporations like Coca-Cola which have adopted a clearly laid out strategy to stamp out land grabbing in its supply chain. We are yet to see this from our big four banks.

“ANZ, along with Westpac, NAB and the Commonwealth Bank, need to demonstrate a Zero Tolerance to land grabbing.”

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