Bill Oddie, the naturalist and BBC television presenter, has made a provocative protest film intended to embarrass the global bank HSBC over its links to logging companies blamed for the destruction of the rainforest in Malaysia.
The presenter of programmes including Springwatch and Wild in Your Garden was evicted from HSBC’s London headquarters while making a film about the bank’s ties to loggers in the state of Sarawak in Borneo , where less than 5% of the rainforests are unaffected by deforestation or palm oil plantations.
The campaign group Global Witness has released the satirical film – called Bankwatch with Bill Oddie - to back a public petition calling on Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC, to end its relationship with the logging companies which fail to meet the bank’s own sustainability policies.
Clutching his binoculars as he walks about the City of London, Oddie is shown in the film “entering the territory of a creature that’s very closely related to man”, namely “the banker”.
Before he is forcibly ejected by security guards from the “main den” of HSBC headquarters, he makes some scathing observations. “Like most great predators, the HSBC banker sits at the top of the financial food chain totally oblivious to the impact of its appetite on the local eco-system,” he says. “The HSBC banker has a diet which is made up almost exclusively of molluscs and Bollinger so the millions made from logging in Borneo are key to his survival.”
Global Witness last year highlighted that HSBC had provided loans and services to logging companies with close links to the Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
“HSBC has made an absolute killing helping some of the world’s worst logging companies get off the ground,” said Oddie. “According to HSBC’s own rules and all the evidence, it shouldn’t be touching them with a bargepole. As a result the last of Borneo’s rainforests are under immediate threat. Everyone needs to sign the petition to stop HBSC profiting from deforestation in Malaysia and beyond, before it’s too late.”
Responding to the allegations, the bank defended its record but said it did not discuss former or existing clients. “HSBC is committed to adopting, implementing and enforcing the highest behavioural and compliance standards across the entire group. HSBC was among the first international banks to develop and implement a forest and forestry products sector policy. We stand by our record and work constructively with NGOs to help us improve our Sustainability Risk Policies and assess their implementation and effectiveness."
The Independent recently reported how the state of Sarawak used the British television presenter Ben Fogle to front a tourism propaganda campaign in which he extolled the beauty of the rainforests to potential tourists.
Mr Fogle has said he would not be making any more films for the Sarawak Tourism Board until he received answers to “many questions” he has in relation to recent revelations over deforestation issues in the state .