HSBC reviews logging policy as Bill Oddie film sparks petition

Bank launches audit as outcry grows over links to Malaysian logging companies

A A A

HSBC has ordered an audit of its relations with logging companies after campaigners exposed its links to clients responsible for the destruction of rainforests in Borneo.

The bank has called in accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers and British forest management company Proforest to oversee a review of its activities, following an exposé of its connections to companies involved in clearing swathes of forest for lucrative palm oil plantations.

A campaign by the non-governmental organisation Global Witness, supported by the naturalist and television presenter Bill Oddie, has highlighted how HSBC clients have contributed to deforestation in the Malaysian state of Sarawak where less than 5 per cent of rainforests are untouched by logging or plantations.

Oddie will tomorrow attend the HSBC annual general meeting as a shareholder to question the bank’s board over the environmental damage caused and question whether it is meeting its own Forest Land and Forest Products Policy, which it introduced in 2004. The BBC presenter wrote in The Independent earlier this month of his concerns that palm oil plantations were wiping out biodiversity in Borneo rainforests.

He said he was “horrified to discover that some of the least reputable companies who are at the forefront of ripping up Borneo's forests and turning them into oil palm plantations are supported by Britain's biggest bank, HSBC - a bank whose PR campaigns led me into believing it was environmentally friendly”.

Oddie was thrown out of the HSBC headquarters in London while making a film – “BankWatch” – to highlight the bank’s links to logging. The film has had 170,000 views, with more than 15,000 people signing a petition calling on HSBC to stop support for loggers.

In response, HSBC has announced an audit of its activities. Simon Martin, head of Global Corporate Sustainability at HSBC Holdings, issued a statement saying: “In light of concerns raised by Global Witness, we will a) Engage Proforest, an independent international organisation that advises on sustainable natural resource management, to benchmark our policy against the wider corporate sector, and make recommendations for improvements; b) commission PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a compliance review of our implementation of the policy. We will report on the findings in due course.”

Mr Martin said HSBC has already “stopped providing banking services” to 68 clients in Malaysia because their activities did not comply with the bank’s forest policies.

HSBC believes its policy stands up well alongside those of other financial services companies but is anxious to ensure it is being properly implemented.

Global Witness investigations have revealed how HSBC provided loans and services to logging companies with close ties to Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is currently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Alex Helan, campaigner for Global Witness, said: “The HSBC review is a positive step but we want to be sure it’s not just a PR exercise. It must usher in new procedures that stop the bank funding any clients destroying tropical forests.”

But Oddie said the bank’s review of its policy was an insufficient response. “It’s hard to get excited about a limited review of an opaque policy sold to the public as a serious commitment to the world’s forests,” he said.

“We want Stuart Gulliver [HSBC’s chief executive] to make an unambiguous commitment that HSBC will never bankroll companies logging or clearing natural tropical forests, and then to put credible measures in place to show its customers and shareholders that it is serious about delivering on that commitment.”

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?