By: Berne Declaration
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Bowing to civil society pressure, Credit Suisse for the first time published summaries of its internal guidelines and instructions for dealing with industries whose social and environmental record is cause for concern. The Berne Declaration welcomes the bank's move towards more transparency but at the same time regrets that human rights receive so little attention in the partly published guidelines.
For many years, the Berne Declaration has been researching and documenting the involvement of large Swiss banks in business transactions of customers who harm the environment and disregard human rights. All along, the BD has been urging the banks to develop and implement comprehensive rules for their involvment with high-risk business operations, then publish them to invite public scrutiny. Now, at long last, Credit Suisse has at least posted a summary of these guidelines in the internet.
Unfortunately Credit Suisse did not have the courage to publish their standards in full and thus become one of the leading banks in terms of transparency. A look at the published summaries makes clear that the guidelines contain no reference- indispensable in terms of credibility and effectiveness-to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO core labor standards. For example, Credit Suisse writes that it will ascertain if a forestry company "has considered and, if applicable, responded to local community issues in a meaningful and credible way". However, most conflicts between forestry companies or palm oil corporations and local communities do not concern vague "commmunity issues" but violations of human rights such as the right to housing and the right to food, or the collective rights of minorities.
Therefore, the UN Special Representative for business and human rights, John Ruggie, insists that all corporations develop procedures to assess and reduce the negative impact of their activities on human rights. To the extent that they are now publicly accessible the guidelines of Credit Suisse are not sufficient for a serious assessment of human rights.