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Orangutans Swing Into Action Against HSBC Bank

by Rolf Skar

June 18, 2010

HSBC, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, has attempted to position itself as an environmentally responsible bank.  They have a policy not to invest in companies that destroy rainforests.  They offer customers a mutual fund that invests in companies offering climate solutions.  But, HSBC has a big problem.  Their Global Climate Change Fund invests in Sinar Mas, one of the worst rainforests destroying, climate polluting company on the planet!

Believe it or not, Sinar Mas was included in the climate fund with flawed rationale that their palm oil could be turned into a climate-friendly biodiesel.  But, as Greenpeace has repeatedly pointed out, Sinar Mas destroys Paradise rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands to make room for its palm oil plantations, often breaking industry standards and Indonesia law in the process.

In the United Kingdom, Greenpeace exposed this dramatic contradiction to the London-based bank and in the press, but HSBC leadership in London passed the buck.  They said their forest policy did not apply to funds they managed, only their direct investments.  And they said there wasn’t sufficient data to indicate whether Sinar Mas palm oil biodiesel was bad for the climate.  Huh?

HSBC and orangutans in San FranciscoIn the US, we decided to help motivate the bank with creative activism.  In San Francisco on Tuesday, orangutans showed up on the busy sidewalks in the heart of the financial district.  They, along with their human friends, distributed hundreds of flyers to passersby, and inspired people to make calls to HSBC headquarters.  The orangutans and their friends ended their visit to HSBC with a rousing song entitled “Oh, HSBC” (sung to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”).

Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
    You’re banking with hypocrisy
Green “Climate Fund” now that’s a gas
You’re investing in dirty Sinar Mas
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
    You’re banking with hypocrisy

Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
    You’re banking with hypocrisy
Orangutans running out of luck
They need your help, but you pass the buck
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
    You’re banking with hypocrisy

Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
    You’re banking with hypocrisy
You have a forest policy
But you weasel out with technicalities
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
    You’re banking with hypocrisy

Catchy isn’t it?

HSBC and orangutans Palo Alto

On Thursday, orangutans visited an HSBC bank in Silicone Valley on the sunny streets of Palo Alto.  Within moments of a banner unfurling and an orangutan “die-in” (orangutans sprawled out, lying on the sidewalk) bank management called the police.  But, since our orangutans were well-behaved and well versed in their rights to free speech and assembly, they were allowed to stay on site, spreading the word and attracting supportive honks from passing motorists…much to the dismay of HSBC management.

Where will the activist apes show up next?  HSBC will have to wait and see!  In the meantime, send your message to HSBC by clicking here.

-Rolf

 Honk for the Forest

 

Rolf Skar

By Rolf Skar

Rolf Skar is the Campaigns Director at Greenpeace USA. Since 2007, Rolf has contributed to international Greenpeace campaigns to stop deforestation in the Canadian boreal forest, the Paradise forests of Southeast Asia, and the Brazilian Amazon.

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