‘More than half’ banks failing on human rights considerations, says report

New report from campaign group BankTrack lists laggards

More than half of banks show “little or no evidence” that they actively consider human rights in their financing, according to a report by BankTrack, the campaign group focused on private sector commercial banks.

Canada’s Bank of Montreal and Bank of Nova Scotia, Brazil’s Caixa Economica Federal and Banco Bradeco, National Australia Bank, the UK’s Lloyds and France-based Credit Mutuel have all been added to the NGO’s list of “laggards” in its second report on the subject, in which it looks at the integration of human rights considerations into banks’ policies, due diligence processes and reporting.

Twenty-four of the 45 banks scored three or less, out of a possible 12 points, “showing little or no evidence that they are actively assessing the potential human rights impacts of their finance”, the report claims.

Eight banks were singled out as “front-runners”: Rabobank, Citi, ANZ, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and UBS. But, the authors warn, “all [banks surveyed] have substantial progress to make before they are fulfilling their human rights responsibilities”.

All the banks were found to be without a clear outline of how they include “meaningful” consultation with potentially effected people in their due diligence processes – a requirement from the UN Guiding Principles.Two other requirements that were found to be absent from all banks’ procedures were the inclusion of sufficient reporting on specific human rights impacts, and the establishment or participation in effective complaint mechanisms.

“It is particularly worrying that banks are apparently ignoring important principles entirely,” said Ryan Brightwell, human rights campaign coordinator at BankTrack. “Such alarming gaps call into question whether the essentially self-regulatory approach of the UN Guiding Principles is working.”

“Banks are apparently ignoring important principles entirely”

Andreas Missbach, BankTrack board member and head of commodities, trade and finance at the Berne Declaration, highlighted that BBVA and RBS were signatories on a recent discussion paper by the Thun Group – a network of global banks focused on sustainability – that discussed the importance of clear accountability on human rights.

“Equally disappointing is the fact that four of the initial signatories [to the Thun Group], including Credit Suisse and UBS, did not improve at all since BankTrack’s first assessment,” he added.