HSBC Promises to Cut Ties With Forest-Trashing Palm Oil Companies

by Annisa Rahmawati

February 21, 2017

There's been a major breakthrough in protecting Indonesia's forests: HSBC has committed to breaking its links to palm oil companies destroying forests and peatlands.

Greenpeace activists carry a banner as they deliver a petition to HSBC Headquarter in Kuala Lumpur. More than 220,000 people globally signed the petition urging HSBC to stop funding six palm oil corporations that destroy the rainforest and peat land in Indonesia.

Greenpeace activists carry a banner as they deliver a petition to HSBC Headquarter in Kuala Lumpur. More than 220,000 people globally signed the petition urging HSBC to stop funding six palm oil corporations that destroy the rainforest and peat land in Indonesia.

© Han Choo / Greenpeace

HSBC’s new policy — released yesterday — says the company will no longer provide funding to companies involved in any kind of deforestation or peatland clearance, both of which were missing from previous versions. It also insists that all of HSBC’s customers must publish their own forest protection policies by the end of June.

This is a fantastic result for thousands of people who have asked HSBC to step up for forests, but the hard work doesn’t stop heree. The real test now is how those words will be put into practice.

Excavators clear intact peatland forests and build drainage canals in an oil palm concession by PT Andalan Sukses Makmur, a subsidiary of Bumitama Agri Ltd. The concession is next to Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan

Excavators clear intact peatland forests and build drainage canals in an oil palm concession in Indonesia.

This progress was only possible because the pressure on HSBC has been phenomenal. Over 200,000 people from around the world signed a petition, which was delivered to the head offices in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

And it wasn’t just public pressure — CEO Stuart Gulliver was grilled about our campaign in front of world leaders and other company bosses at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now, he said he agrees with everyone who’s joined the campaign that forests need to be protected.

HSBC needs to put these promises into action right now, because recent satellite images suggest that one of its customers is preparing to destroy a massive area of forest in Papua. South Korean conglomerate POSCO Daewoo has a palm oil subsidiary that controls a large area of land in Papua, and has already cleared huge areas of forest.

Images taken in mid-January show a new network of roads cut into the remaining forest, which were not there in images taken just three weeks earlier. This is a clear sign that the company is preparing to clear everything between the roads, and it’s a huge area — just under 10,000 acres, or about the size of 6,000 soccer fields.

HSBC provides services to other parts of POSCO Daewoo, not directly to the palm oil company, but if it’s serious about stopping deforestation, it needs to put pressure on the parent company right away and use its influence to get the bulldozers called off.

This will be the first of many tests for HSBC, and the real victory will come when it can show it’s doing everything it can to end deforestation. And if other global banks also follow HSBC’s lead, the cash flow for palm oil companies that continue to tear down forests will finally start to dry up.

Annisa Rahmawati

By Annisa Rahmawati

Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Indonesia.

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