Deutsche Bank Greenwashing over Natural Rubber Plantations in Cameroon
Deutsche Bank plans to finance at least €200 billion of sustainable investments by the end of 2023. A year ago, it also announced an "innovative new loan" for Corrie MacColl Plantations Pte Ltd to finance investments in its rubber plantations in Cameroon and Malaysia. Deutsche Bank presents this loan as especially sustainable. In June 2020, Corrie MacColl received the $25 million loan with the option to increase the credit facility to $50 million. Now Deutsche Bank plans to disburse the second tranche of the million-dollar loan in mid-2021.
Corrie MacColl was acquired by Halcyon Agri in 2018 and has since become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halcyon Agri Corp Ltd, which is listed on the Singapore Exchange (ISIN: SG2F489824). 55% of Halcyon Agri's shares are held by Sinochem International Corp (ISIN: CNE0000011R3), part of the Chinese state-owned Sinochem Group. Halcyon Agri owns rubber processing factories and huge rubber plantations, among others in Cameroon. Two subsidiaries, Hévéa Cameroun SA (Hevecam) and Sud-Cameroun Hévéa (Sudcam), which own rubber plantations in Cameroon, are incorporated under Corrie MacColl.
While the rubber group owns 80% of Sudcam, the identity of the minority shareholder holding the remaining 20% is unknown. The minority shareholder is probably a senior member of the Cameroonian government, maybe from the president´s family. This is supported by Halcyon Agri's persistent refusal to reveal the identity of the minority shareholder. Furthermore, Sudcam's plantation is only seven kilometres away from the home village of President Paul Biya, where he owns a villa with a security complex and airstrip.
In general, Sudcam's actions are highly controversial and do not fit with Deutsche Bank's attempt to portray the loan as sustainable. Sudcam is accused of human rights violations, displacement of indigenous peoples, deforestation and water pollution. According to Greenpeace, Sudcam - having cleared over 10,000 hectares of dense rainforest - is responsible for the most devastating new deforestation in recent years in the Congo Basin, the world's second largest rainforest after the Amazon. The location of the clearing is also remarkable, right next to the UNESCO World Heritage Dja Faunal Reserve, home to many endangered gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants.
When choosing the location of the rubber plantations, no consideration was given to the approximately 30 local communities living in the concession area. They own land in the concession area, which was often not officially registered as private land ownership. Since Cameroonian law only requires compensation payments for registered private land ownership, some indigenous and rural communities lost their land without being compensated. The indigenous peoples' demand to shift the concession area a few kilometres in order to save their sacred sites and their forest camps, which served them as bases for hunting, fishing and gathering, was rejected.
In addition, the concession to Sudcam presumably also violated Cameroonian law, as parts of the area had already been given to two logging companies and only unoccupied land is disposable for concession. It is likely that Sudcam's links to the Cameroonian government elite enabled the company to obtain the concession anyway. The identity of the minority shareholder could also be the reason for the very advantageous conditions Sudcam was granted in 2011 by the Cameroonian Minister of Economy in a secret agreement. According to this agreement, Sudcam pays significantly lower land use fees than other companies, is exempt from taxes for ten years and receives exclusive water use rights for free.
For these reasons, NGOs are demanding Deutsche Bank to stop the second tranche of the million-dollar loan. Sudcam itself shows that pressure from civil society can make a difference. While Sudcam has largely denied the allegations, after several NGOs denounced Sudcam's land clearing and displacements, Halcyon Agri saw itself forced to announce a Sustainable Natural Rubber Supply Chain Policy in November 2018, which ended all further clearings.
Despite this improvement, Deutsche Bank´s loan to this group can not be called sustainable. As long as Deutsche Bank sells loans like the one to Corrie MacColl as allegedly sustainable, the bank's sustainability announcements are pure greenwash. Fair Finance Germany is calling on Deutsche Bank to finally put its sustainability promises into practice and stop the greenwashing around the loan to Corrie MacColl.
This article was first published by Fair Finance Germany. Read more about Deutsche Bank's loan to Corrie MacColl, here.
 Refinitiv Eikon: Retrieved 12.05.2021
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