Report into improper land acquisition welcomed
5 May 2014
Westpac Group has welcomed the report released last week by Oxfam Australia addressing the issue of improper land acquisition.
As a global leader in sustainability, Westpac Group is committed to helping foster sustainable futures in the communities we serve. Oxfam’s commitment to responsible environmental and social practices is closely aligned with Westpac’s own organisational values.
The bank said the report was useful in drawing further attention to the some of the complex issues the banking sector has long been managing as part of responsibly supporting the soft commodities sector.
Head of Group Sustainability and Community, Ms Siobhan Toohill, said Westpac continually reviews and strengthens its Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) risk assessment policies and processes.
“Westpac closely monitors customer relationships for compliance with our ESG Risk Management Framework.
“In the past, Westpac has been prepared to exit customer relationships if we are not comfortable with the risk profile of a customer or related parties, or have concerns around their environmental, social and governance activities. This includes ‘land grabbing’. In circumstances where we do not believe that customers are adhering to appropriate standards and do not believe they are prepared to address this responsibly, we will continue to exit those relationships.
“We have been in constructive conversations with Oxfam on this issue and welcome the opportunity to engage with other like-minded organisations to enable us to drive change for the better,” she said.
Westpac continues to work with customers to understand and manage environmental impacts and recently became the first bank in Australia and the Asia Pacific region to sign up to the Soft Commodities Compact. This global initiative seeks to transform the supply chains of soft commodities to reduce tropical deforestation.
Westpac has a strong track record in this regard. In 2009, we reviewed our lending policies in the Solomon Islands, looking specifically at the forestry and related sectors to ensure that our support of Solomon Islands’ customers was in keeping with our commitment to creating a sustainable future across the Pacific. Ultimately, we took the approach to cease all support of finance, trade and transactional services to customers in the forestry and related sectors in the country.