Unethical land grabs by banks: Australia says no

Recent research from Oxfam Australia has shown that despite increasing pressure, the big four banks have not addressed the problem of unethical practices like land grabs, and that Aussie customers have had enough.

The report released by Oxfam Australia revealed that all four big banks were using Aussie money to back companies involved in activities like illegal logging, food shortages, child labour and especially land grabs, which provide inadequate compensation and lead to forced evictions in countries like Brazil, Cambodia and Indonesia.

“What is clear from our investigations is that, despite the big four banks claiming they’ve addressed the issue, no bank has done enough - the land grabs that we exposed two years ago continue to have devastating impacts on the lives of vulnerable people,” said Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke.

The good news is that Aussies aren’t happy with their banks’ behaviour, and have started to push back. “Since Oxfam’s first report in 2014, more than 18,000 people have written to their bank and 20,000 have signed the petition to call for a Zero Tolerance for Land Grabs approach,” Szoke said.

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A national survey that was conducted alongside the research showed that almost half of Australians would consider changing banks if they found their current one was involved in unethical practices. 75% of respondents thought banks shouldn’t be giving loans to unethical companies, while 80% said banks should provide compensation to communities harmed by their investments.

“Our research shows Australians care about how their money is invested,” Szoke said. “If most people knew that their money could be used to back companies that take land and homes away from people in some of the world’s poorest countries, they’d be shocked.”

The big four banks have claimed to be making progress toward ethical practices after pressure from investors and customers alike. Oxfam Australia reported that NAB and Westpac were making serious changes by developing new policies toward land-related issues, while CBA and ANZ appeared to have made few or no changes.

None of the big four banks have adopted Oxfam’s suggested Zero Tolerance approach to land grabs.

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