Monday, June 24, 2013

European funded palm oil expansion in Liberia linked to social and
environmental damage

MONROVIA (LIBERIA) / BRUSSELS (BELGIUM), June 24, 2013 – European banks,
pension funds and private equity funds have given financial assistance
worth more than €450 million to Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby,
responsible for environmental degradation and violations of national
regulations in Liberia, according to new research from Friends of the
Earth Europe [1].

An independent impact assessment released today (Monday 24th) by Reading
University reveals that Sime Darby operations could lead to a loss of
biodiversity, food sources and livelihoods – leading to chronic poverty.
There would also be significant environmental impacts with the loss of
primary and secondary forest. [2]

Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor, campaigner for Friends of the Earth Liberia
said: “Investments in agriculture can benefit the poor, but the reality
in Liberia is very different. Farmers are losing their land and
livelihoods, the rights of those living in poverty in rural areas are
being violated, and the forests on which communities depend are
increasingly threatened. I see no guarantees that rural communities will
benefit in any meaningful way from investments in palm oil.”

Sime Darby, which receives financial assistance from European banks and
pension funds including the Norwegian pension fund, UK-based Schroder
investment management and Dutch funds PfZW, has signed a 63-year lease
with the government of Liberia for 311,187 hectares [3] to grow palm
oil, according to Friends of the Earth Liberia and allies [4].

An initiative comprised of the private sector, civil society and the
Liberian government  found Sime Darby culpable of failing to comply with
local land laws; and of failing to conduct public consultations or
produce due diligence reports as required by Liberian rules [5] –
directly contradicting investor policies that require companies to
respect national laws and environmental regulation.

Anne van Schaik, accountable finance campaigner for Friends of the Earth
Europe said: “European funds need to stop financing land grabs in
Liberia. Even though most investors have sustainability principles there
are no effective procedures in place to deal with violations – which
makes these policies meaningless. Investors and financiers need to put
their money where their mouth is and pressure Sime Darby to stop
grabbing land.”

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on investors and financiers of
Sime Darby to pressure the company to clean up its operations, or risk
divestment. European banks and pension funds should not be contributing
to land conflicts with local communities, deforestation or to companies
who violate national law. Sime Darby should bring an immediate end to
land-grabbing and deforestation, ensure adequate compensation, and any
future development should obey national law and ensure free, prior and
informed consent from affected communities.


Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, campaigner, Friends of the Earth Liberia
Tel: +44 7405 629077+44 7405 629077 (UK), +231 (0) 880 655712 (Liberia), e-mail:

Anne van Schaik, accountable finance campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Tel: +32 (0) 2 893 1020+32 (0) 2 893 1020, Mob: +31 6 2434 3968+31 6 2434 3968, e-mail:

Sam Fleet, communications officer, Friends of the Earth Europe
Tel: +32 (0) 2 893 1012+32 (0) 2 893 1012, e-mail: samuel.fleet[at]


[1] This includes loans with a total value of 280 million euro and
assistance with the issuing of new bonds with a total value of 250
million euro. For more information:


[3] Factsheet on Sime Darby:

Profundo research on Sime Darby:

[4] Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth Liberia, Save
My Future Foundation (SAMFU) and Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable
Development (SESDev).

[5] Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) post
award process audit final report: