By: The Wilderness Society
Paul IJ Oosting - Pulp Mill Campaigner
The Wilderness Society (Tasmania) Inc.
Phone: +61 (03) 6224 1550 (Hobart)
BankTrack Campaign officer
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After months of conducting its own review of the pulp mill proposal, ANZ has allegedly declined to participate in a syndicate funding the $2 billion project, media have reported widely. In light of ANZ's new forests policy, its adoption of the Equator Principles, and recent mounting public pressure from civil society groups opposed to the project, the bank's withdrawal comes across as a commendable action, putting in practice the high environmental and social standards that it claims to subscribe to.
“Gunns’ pulp mill would see the destruction of high conservation value forests in Tasmania and the project does not have a social licence. ANZ’s decision is in line with its new forest policy and with principles that set a high standard for corporate social responsibility, for which they are to be congratulated,” said Mr Paul Oosting, Pulp Mill Campaigner for The Wilderness Society.
“Gunns’ pulp mill poses a huge reputational risk for any bank that gets involved due to the negative environmental and social impacts it will cause,” said Mr Oosting.
“This is a welcome example of a financial institution taking a responsible approach towards social and environmental issues, and we sincerely hope that ANZ's Australian and international peers would follow suit,” said Jeni Tasheva, campaigns officer at BankTrack.
While the move of ANZ will complicate efforts of Gunns to obtain sufficient funding, the company is currently seeking other options to finance the mill. Among potential financiers cited in the media are Macquarie Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank and several unspecified big Asian banks.
In the current context of heightened media attention and ANZ's withdrawal from the project, any bank that steps in to finance of the proposed paper mill would risk major negative publicity and becoming the target of concerted civil society organisations' campaigns.
“We strongly urge other banks and lenders to abstain from financing the pulp mill project, which is potentially damaging to both local communities and native Tasmanian forests of high conservation value,” said Tasheva, “ANZ had good reasons for the decision, and these count for other banks as well.”