JP Morgan accused of making investments of mass destruction
Pressure group the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is targeting US-based bank JP Morgan Chase over its alleged lack of environmental policy.The group has launched an advertising campaign and website to highlight the projects the bank has invested in, which, the group says, are causing major environmental damage.
Campaign website DirtyMoney.org, claims that JP Morgan has poured finance into such projects as the Three Gorges Dam in China which will flood 24,000 hectares of land and displace more than 1 million people; that it finances the world's most destructive logging companies and the OCP oil pipeline in Ecuador which transports heavy crude oil from the rainforest to the coast through extremely fragile ecosystems.
Protestors say the bank built its financial empire on oil exploitation and continues to profit from investments that are causing global warming.
The campaign began, say RAN, after the bank reneged on a promise to adopt a comprehensive environmental policy last month. William B. Harrison, chairman and executive officer of JP Morgan Chase wrote a letter to Michael Brune, executive director of RAN, in April 2004, saying the bank was committed "to build a broad policy framework by the beginning of October, which will include targets and timelines on initiatives."
However, David A. Coulter, vice-chairman of JP Morgan Chase, then disappointed the environmental community by writing a letter, dated September 30th, postponing the release of its planned policy until April 2005 at the earliest.
"JP Morgan Chase is making a killing off of radical resource extraction from the most ecologically fragile ecosystems on Earth," said Ilyse Hogue, director of the Global Finance Campaign at RAN. "It defies explanation that JP Morgan Chase hasnt embraced the most fundamental reforms like joining the UNEP Finance Initiative or signing up to the Equator Principles (see related story)."
JP Morgan Chase dispute the allegations. A spokesperson for the bank told edie news that it was still committed to developing a comprehensive environmental policy but was waiting until its recent merger with Bank One had been finalised.
The spokesperson pointed out that the bank had created an Office of Environmental Affairs in March this year, devoted to increasing the firm's focus on the environment and on individual communities. The director of the new office, Amy Hayes Davidson, is responsible for establishing global policies and procedures regarding environmental issues and will be working with governmental agencies and NGOs to help JP Morgan Chase meet its responsibilities.
However, campaign groups believe this still isn't enough and are demanding action far sooner: "It's time for America's second-largest bank to cut to the chase and stop making investments of mass destruction," Ilyse Hogue said.
By David Hopkins