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Wells Fargo comes under fire for 'outdated' CSR approach

November 2005

One of the oldest US corporations is being targeted in a new campaign by the Rainforest Action Network for what the activist group describes as its 'outdated practices' on social and environmental issues.

Wells Fargo bank is being attacked by RAN as part of a more general campaign against US banks, among them Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, which have all since adopted more stringent social and environmental policies.

'Wells Fargo is the fourth biggest bank in the US and the only one of the top four that is operating without a comprehensive, helpful policy to address the most pressing environmental issues of our time,' Ilsye Houge, co-ordinator of RAN's Global Finance Campaign, told EP.

RAN's demands include the phasing out of funding for extractive industries in environmentally sensitive areas and the cancelling of loan debts with impoverished countries. In a letter to chief executive Richard Kovacevich, RAN has called on Wells Fargo to prioritize the environment in its investment decisions by funding companies involved in sustainable forest or renewable energy.

Wells Fargo, which has 23 million customers and assets worth $435billion (£250bn), has accused RAN of misrepresenting its policies.

'We care about the environment as much as RAN does,' said Stephanie Rico, the bank's communications consultant. Rico pointed to a 'ten-point environmental commitment' published this year as evidence of measures being taken by the company. The policy statement includes a pledge to provide $1bn in loans and investments to environmentally beneficial businesses over the next five years.

Other commitments include its recent adoption of the Equator Principles - ethical criteria for project finance loans - and the development of due diligence procedures for business clients in the mining, oil and other environmentally sensitive industries.

However, RAN said the bank's ten-point commitment fails to mention climate change, human rights and other critical issues. 'It's a ten-point press release,' said Houge.


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