Dutch banks second worst culprits in Europe for loaning money to climate disruptors

AMSTERDAM - European banks have loaned over 250 billion euros to companies contributing to deforestation since the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015. In a new report, Greenpeace, Milieudefensie, and Harvest have accused the banks of being partly responsible for climate disruption. Dutch banks Rabobank and ING are in the top five in Europe for most of the money loaned to the companies in question, then environmental activist groups said. 

The report made by the three nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) was signed by 18 other organizations, the report analyzed the relationship between European financial institutions and the 135 largest businesses that work in environmental risk sectors. 

Businesses like meat companies, soy producers, and raw agriculture material traders are considered the main culprits of the destruction of nature, according to the NGOs. 

The activist groups calculated that the European banks provided loans and offered other financial services of around 256 billion euros to companies connected to deforestation between 2016 and 2023. 

The report mentions six companies specifically: the Brazilian meat producers JBS and Marfrig, palm oil and pulp giants RGE and Sinar Mas from Indonesia, and the American raw materials traders Bunge and Cargill. These companies received 24.4 billion euros from European banks between 2016 and 2023. 

Rabobank, ING, and ABN Amro gave the six multinationals a quarter of that total, 6.1 billion euros. French banks were the only EU based financial services firms to give these companies more money than the Dutch during this time. 

ING said that they share Greenpeace's worries concerning deforestation. The company has policies that prevent them from financing any damage to tropical rainforests. The bank has said that they will speak with clients who do not meet the requirements. "If a client shows insufficient improvement, it could lead to an end of the relationship." 

Rabobank has also said it will contact customers to promote sustainability. "However, we also know that the system will not change in a day," the bank admitted. 

ABN Amro said that the numbers from the report are not a good indication of the actual situation. The bank claims it decided in 2020 to start phasing out its significant business activities outside of Europe, including commodity financing. 

The bank explained. "The phasing out was more or less completed at the end of 2022, which means that ABN Amro has had no financial relationship with most of the companies mentioned since that time."