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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map