CEO Morning Brief

Wall Street Ties to Amazon Forest Depletion Mapped Out in New Report

Publish date: Wed, 12 Jun 2024, 11:01 PM
TheEdge CEO Morning Brief

(June 11): Some of Wall Street’s biggest banks aren’t fully accounting for the risks of doing business with oil and gas companies operating in the Amazon rainforest, according to a study by conservationists.

The report, published by Research Group, identifies six banks it says are responsible for almost half of all direct financing for oil and gas operations in Amazonia over the past 20 years.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Itau Unibanco Holding SA, Banco Santander SA and Bank of America Corp have failed to “fully address the adverse impacts of their financing,” the researchers said. The sixth bank — HSBC Holdings Plc — was singled out for a turnaround in its policies.

“Most of these banks claim to uphold human rights and environmental protection, but, with the exception of HSBC, they continue to finance the operations of state-owned and private oil and gas companies in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador,” the report’s authors wrote.

A spokesperson for JPMorgan said the bank supports human rights and screens for “sensitive business activities”. Spokespeople for Citigroup and Bank of America referred to their latest risk-management policies, which spell out due diligence requirements and explain expectations that clients are to meet.

Itau Unibanco said by email that it’s “working to tackle deforestation”. A spokesperson for Santander said the bank understands “fully the importance of protecting the Amazon” and is working with clients.

A spokesperson for HSBC, which ceased financing oil and gas projects in Amazonia in 2022, said the bank’s “approach is to focus on real-world emission reductions as we support our clients in delivering the energy transition”.

Banks have taken to formulating their environmental and social risk policies in narrow terms to reduce meaningful impact assessments, according to and the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon River Basin, an umbrella group representing more than 500 Indigenous peoples.

In some cases, the physical area for which screening is required makes up less than a fifth of Amazonia, the report’s authors estimate. Some transactions are structured in a way that makes them harder to track, the report’s authors also said. Many deals are syndicated and the level of due diligence to conduct is often reduced.

“There’s a real lack of transparency in the data,” Angeline Robertson, the report’s author and a researcher, said in an interview. She and her colleagues are calling on governments in the region to enact stricter regulations.

The warning comes as global temperatures blast through previous records, pushing the nine-country region that makes up Amazonia closer to environmental collapse. Degradation of the Amazon soared in the first four months of this year due to increasing fires and a lack of preventative monitoring, Brazilian environmental officials said last month.

The organisations are calling for banks to support the global agreement that targets protecting 80% of the Amazon.

“We are literally living in a rainforest on fire; our rivers are either polluted or drying up,” Fany Kuiru, general coordinator of COICA, said in a statement. Global banks “must be held accountable”.

Source: TheEdge - 12 Jun 2024

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