Press release | Feb. 10, 2020

BNP Paribas, Natixis and Crédit Agricole implicated in financing global forest destruction

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  • Research shows France’s financial sector provided nearly €2 billion between 2013 and 2019 to five of the six of the most harmful agribusiness companies directly or indirectly involved in deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rainforests. This makes France the second largest EU contributor of funds to these companies.
  • Revelations follow the anti-corruption NGO’s investigation Money to Burn, the first global picture of how major financial players have backed companies destroying forests in the Brazilian Amazon, the Congo Basin and Papua New Guinea.
  • New analysis reveals that since the passage of France’s landmark Duty of Vigilance Law in 2017, BNP Paribas, Natixis and Crédit Agricole have all backed companies linked to forest destruction.
  • Global Witness is urging President Macron and the French government to take urgent and concrete action to tackle the financing behind deforestation.

10 February 2020 – A Global Witness investigation has revealed the scale of the French financial sector’s investment in global deforestation, including by household name banks in France. Ahead of a meeting convened tomorrow by the French government on the country’s strategy to tackle deforestation associated with its imports, Global Witness reveals how BNP Paribas, Natixis and Crédit Agricole are all linked to major agribusiness companies associated with extremely damaging deforestation in some of the world’s largest remaining rainforest. The findings draw on the data behind Global Witness’ Money to Burn investigation as well as new research focusing on the French banks.

“This activity appears to be in direct contravention of President Macron’s stated ambitions to tackle global deforestation,” said Laurence Duprat, Campaign Advisor at Global Witness. “We have identified financing operations that occurred even after the French government introduced its ‘Duty of Vigilance’ law in 2017 requiring French business to identify, mitigate and prevent adverse human rights and environmental impacts resulting from their activities.”

BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, has been financially tied to multiple companies with high risks of deforestation in their operations. In July 2019, it was one of the banks that coordinated a US$500 million “transition bond” for the Brazilian beef trader Marfrig. This comes at a time when deforestation of the Amazon is rapidly increasing, with many trying to profit off forest destruction driven by grazing cattle and the beef industry at large.

French investment bank Natixis contributed an enormous USD$50 million to a syndicated three-year revolving credit facility to Olam International. However, a 2016 report calculated that since 2012, Olam had deforested 20,000 hectares of Gabon forest.

Crédit Agricole is also listed as the ‘principal banker’ to Halcyon Agri, a company that operates a rubber plantation in Cameroon with a legacy of deforestation.

The publication of the findings on these French banks follows a Global Witness investigation released in September 2019, which revealed how a veritable A to Z of world finance is enabling the destruction of the world’s three biggest rainforests.

Some of the largest names in global finance are among those identified, including Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Santander, Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas. They provided tens of billions of dollars in financing between 2013-2019 to companies either directly or indirectly deforesting the largest rainforest regions of the world, through their production of agricultural commodities like palm oil, beef and rubber.

The revelations in the report Money to Burn came after a summer of international outcry over the burning of the Brazilian Amazon. In 2018 alone, an area of primary tropical rainforest the size of Belgium was destroyed. About a quarter of forest loss – or as much as 78% in South East Asia and 56% in Latin America – was to make way for agricultural commodities, including beef and palm oil.

Sonia Guajajara, Executive Coordinator of the Network of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil – APIB) told Global Witness:

“Over the last year the dangers faced by indigenous peoples in the Amazon and across all Brazil’s biomes have increased. Agribusiness is a widespread driver of deforestation in the Amazon and is causing more threats against indigenous communities that protect forests through their lifestyles. We are being silenced, threatened, jailed and even killed. Our forests are the world’s forests and they are being destroyed. We need to act together and there is no more time left. Global finance is fuelling the destruction of our forests, our homes, our cultures.  Last year we travelled to 12 European countries warning everyone about what is happening in Brazil, and asking that urgent measures be taken to fight this barbarism. European governments need to pass legislation to ensure its banks and companies do not support this destruction.”

Laurence Duprat, Campaign Advisor, Global Witness, said:

“The rapid breakdown of our climate is a concern to many – including bank customers. So it’s unsurprising that banks and investors proudly trumpet policies on ethical investment and lending, giving the impression they are not pumping money into companies that would fell and burn precious rainforests and contribute to climate change.

“But there is a blatant contradiction: the same French financial institutions are skirting their own policies at will. As a result, many of their virtuous promises are barely worth the paper they are printed on. What’s more, they are undermining France’s global and national commitments to fight deforestation.

“As a global leader on climate breakdown and forests protection, President Macron must now take urgent and bold action to tackle the financing of deforestation and drive systemic change.”


All the banks and agribusinesses concerned were contacted for comment and details can be found in the report.

Listing image credit: BSTAR IMAGES / Piero Cruciatti / Alamy Stock Photo / Bloomberg

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