Banks facing pressure over landmine lendingMarch 2008
Amnesty International has urged five leading French banks to tighten their policies on investment in companies that make and trade anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.
The human rights pressure group says the banks appear to be doing too little to avoid directly or indirectly investing in the companies concerned, or to lobby against such investments.
Amnesty found that Axa, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale each have public policies forbidding direct investment in manufacture of such munitions. But there was no evidence of such a stance either at Credit Agricole, France’s third-biggest bank by market value, or at Natixis, the fourth largest.
In addition, none of the five had a public policy of refusing to lend money for client investments in this area, and only Axa and BNP Paribas showed any commitment to raising the issue with clients.
Amnesty, which compiled its findings from information submitted by the companies themselves, singled out Natixis, which was created in late 2006 by a merger of the corporate banking arms of Groupe Banque Populaire and Groupe Caisse d’Epargne, for particular criticism. It ‘deplored’ the group’s lack of policy on anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, especially as ‘this institution states that it has a social policy based on a consideration for individuals’.
BNP Paribas is in discussions with Amnesty and would not comment publicly, Natixis said it would respond in due course, and Societe Generale has requested a meeting with Amnesty. Credit Agricole, which had been drawing up an internal policy, has since decided ‘not to invest our own funds directly in companies identified as being involved in the production, trade or storage of anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs’.
Amnesty says banks should not support companies that produce and trade in these munitions because they ‘strike civilian populations and military targets indiscriminately and continue to kill or mutilate long after the end of hostilities’.
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