Major Banks Still Allow Human Rights Violations to Persist: New report from FF Netherlands

11 June 2024

Huge Difference Between Policy and Practice, Especially at ING and Rabobank

The three largest banks in the Netherlands - ABN Amro, ING, and Rabobank - are unable to demonstrate that they adequately respond to human rights violations committed by the mining, oil, and gas companies in which they invest billions of euros. Although the banks publicly embrace international guidelines on addressing these violations, they rarely follow them in practice. As a result, victims are often left without support. This is evident from new research published today by the Dutch Fair Bank Guide.

The Fair Bank Guide research focuses on the measure's banks are taking to get mining, oil, and gas companies to change their behavior. These companies, including Glencore, Trafigura, Shell, and TotalEnergies, operate worldwide. Their activities routinely involve serious abuses such as water and soil pollution, violence against local communities, violation of land rights, manslaughter, and even murder.

Between 2016 and 2019, banks and various civil society organizations worked together under a human rights covenant, using the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as the foundation. "In 2024, we should expect to see these principles reflected in banks' internal processes, however what we see is completely insufficient," says Titus Bolten of Amnesty International on behalf of the Fair Bank Guide. "Especially at ING and Rabobank, there is a huge difference between their human rights policy and actual investment practices."

The bank Van Lanschot Kempen was also examined and while it manages to distinguish itself positively from the three major banks in some areas, all four banks achieve poor final scores: on a 10-point scale, Van Lanschot Kempen scores a 5. ABN AMRO follows with a 4, and ING and Rabobank get no further than a 2.

According to the UN Guidelines, banks must account for how they have addressed adverse human rights impacts and communicate the results of that approach. None of the banks publish clear information about this, and only Van Lanschot Kempen answered relevant questions as part of the survey.

Financial Analysis

The research involved an analysis revealing the financial relationships between the eight banks included in the Fair Bank Guide and 10 mining, oil, and gas companies. This included loans between January 2018 and October 2023, and investments identified up to October 2023. No investments were found for Bunq, NIBC, Triodos Bank, and Volksbank. Van Lanschot Kempen did not provide credit but invested 106 million euros in some of the ten companies.

ING, Rabobank, and ABN Amro together provided 13.8 billion euros in credit to eight of the 10 mining, oil, and gas companies. ING is by far the largest investor, with 7 billion euros in loans and 122 million euros in investments. Rabobank provided 3.6 billion euros in credit, while ABN Amro provided 3.2 billion euros but reduced this funding to zero after a change in geographic focus in recent years. ABN Amro does, however, invest 42 million euros in these companies.

"If banks choose to invest so much money in these companies, they should also take responsibility when things go wrong and show how they are trying to do something about it," Titus Bolten responds. "They know the risks and the problems at these companies, but then they don't adequately follow through."

The Fair Bank Guide calls on banks to take seriously their responsibility to respect human rights and asks the government to impose obligations on banks to ensure they apply due diligence in their investment practices.



The Fair Bank Guide is part of the Fair Finance Guide, an alliance of Amnesty International, Milieudefensie, Oxfam Novib, PAX, and World Animal Protection.

This research was conducted by Profundo.

At eerlijkegeldwijzer.bankwijzer, consumers can compare banks' scores for their investment policies and practices with those of other banks. They can also take action, by sending their bank a complaint or compliment.

More information:

Marjon Rozema, Amnesty International

Tel: 06 - 25 30 69 93  /