Catholic investors call on Brazilian government to better protect the Amazon and the rights of its indigenous population

On 29 March 2021, a group of nearly 100 Catholic institutions, led by the The Special Commission on Integral Ecology and Mining for the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB), the international Catholic network Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and the German Catholic Church Bank Bank für Kirche und Caritas (BKC) sent a letter to high-ranking Brazilian government representatives and officials with clear demands to protect the Amazon and the indigenous people living there. We are convinced of the need to make full use of our opportunities as Catholic institutions and to raise our "voice" by entering into an dialogue with the Brazilian government.  We would like to motivate the Brazilian government to finally respect human and environmental rights and take appropriate countermeasures to remedy the current situation.  

Please contact us if you have any questions tommy.piemonte@bkc-paderborn.de

Letter

We are a group of 93 Catholic institutions, led by the Special Commission on Integral Ecology and Mining for the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB), the international Catholic network Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and the German Catholic Church Bank Bank für Kirche und Caritas (BKC), which pursue an ethical and sustainable investment strategy. All these ethical-sustainable investment strategies are based on the values of Catholic social teaching and take into account the guiding principles of the protection of human life, peace, justice and creation.

Today we approach you not only as Catholic institutions, but also as investors and potential investors in Brazilian government bonds as well as in shares and bonds of Brazilian companies.

As Catholics and citizen of this world, we are extremely concerned about the continuing destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian National Institute for Space Research INPE, in a monthly balance published in October 2020, reported a record number of fires in the Amazon and in the world's largest swamp area, the Pantanal, of more than 17,300 fires. This number of fires was more than twice as high as in the same month the year before.[1]

At the same time, the INPE, after evaluating satellite images, reports a new record level of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon within one year. According to this report, an incredible amount of 11,088 square kilometres of rainforest was cut down in the period of twelve months (August 2019-July 2020) - which is equivalent to an area larger than Jamaica. This is a twelve-year high and represents an increase of 9.5 percent compared to the same period last year, which was also a record.[2]

This devastating environmental damage is in stark contrast to the Catholic guiding theme of preserving creation and the call of his holiness Pope Francis to protect the climate and the environment in the encyclical Laudato Si'. Moreover, the Amazon is not only our "common lung" of humanity, but also, in very concrete terms, home to a large number of indigenous people. The unchecked growth of legal or illegal, but tolerated, deforestation and occupation of indigenous lands by the extractive industries, cattle breeders, soybean and other agricultural producers and loggers leaves behind not only a trail of environmental destruction, but also deprivation of rights, displacement and quite often murder of the indigenous people.[3]

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the violation of human rights not only pose a threat to Brazil's reputation in the international community, but also a very real threat to the Brazilian economy. This is because more and more consumers are boycotting Brazilian products. In addition, banks are stopping the financing of Brazilian companies directly or indirectly related to the deforestation of the rainforest, and investors are refraining from further investment in securities of such Brazilian companies and Brazilian government bonds or are even selling them. This is because investors see deforestation and the associated impacts on biodiversity and climate change as systemic risks to their reputation and portfolios, and of course to long-term sustainable financial markets.[4]

If the Brazilian government does not resolutely oppose the deforestation of the rainforest and the deprivation of rights of the indigenous population, we, as Catholic investors, will also increasingly see our basis as current and potential institutional investors in Brazilian companies and government bonds removed.

For these reasons, we call on you to draw up a clear plan of action which, in a first step, should implement the following objectives:

  • Implementation of strict environmental protection legislation
  • Monitoring and compliance with environmental legislation
  • Concrete plan on how to combat deforestation, with a budget and intermediate targets to be measured
  • Massive upgrading of fire fighting and ibama resources in the Amazon
  • Lifting restrictive provisions against non-governmental organisations and launching a stakeholder dialogue on environmental measures
  • Protection of the land and the human rights of the indigenous population with quantifiable, time-bound obligations and measures
  • Expropriation of land that has been unlawfully appropriated and public disclosure of this information
  • Afforestation activities and annual reporting on progress

We are looking forward to your kind feedback and we are happy to discuss with you on these issues.

In the meantime, we will start an exchange of information with investor groups with whom you are already in contact or who have the same concerns as we do.
___________________________________

[1] National Institute for Space Research INPE (2020); http://terrabrasilis.dpi.inpe.br/app/dashboard/fires/legal/amazon/aggregated/# (accessed on 05.01.2020)

[2] National Institute for Space Research INPE (2020); http://terrabrasilis.dpi.inpe.br/app/dashboard/deforestation/biomes/legal_amazon/rates (accessed on 05.01.2020)

[3] APIB and Amazon Watch (2020); Complicity IN Destruction III: How Global Corporations Enable Violations Of Indigenous Peoples‘ Rights In The Brazilian Amazon; https://amazonwatch.org/news/2020/1027-complicity-in-destruction-iii (accessed on 05.01.2020)

[4] Ceres (2019); Investor statement on deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon. This statement is endorsed by 230 investors representing approximately US $16.2 trillion in assets.
https://www.ceres.org/sites/default/files/Investor%20statement%20on%20deforestation%20and%20forest%20fires%20in%20the%20Amazon.pdf (accessed on 05.01.2020)
Storebrand (2020); Open letter from financial institutions to halt deforestation in Brazil; https://www.storebrand.no/en/asset-management/sustainable-investments/active-ownership/_/attachment/download/30ee3878-f76a-4379-bfc3-95da81215da0:0014db6c85fa65d95c3c21537e4bf41afe57355d/Open%20letter%20Brazilian%20embassy%20in%20Final%20070720.pdf (accessed on 05.01.2020)

Signatories

1. Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG (BKC)

2. The Special Commission on Integral Ecology and Mining for the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB)  

3. Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM)

4. Abtei Koenigsmünster (Meschede)

5. Abtei St. Gertrud (Wickede (Ruhr))

6. Adrian Dominican Sisters, Portfolio Advisory Board (Adrian, USA)

7. ADVENIAT e.V. (Essen)

8. Arnold-Janssen-Stiftung (Sankt Augustin)

9. Augustiner Chorfrauen im Michaelskloster (Paderborn)

10. BANK IM BISTUM ESSEN eG (Essen)

11. Bischöfliches Hilfswerk MISEREOR (Aachen)

12. Bistum Aachen (Aachen)

13. Boston Catholic Climate Movement (Lexington, USA)

14. Caritasverband Dortmund e. V. (Dortmund)

15. Caritasverband im Dekanat Büren e.V. (Büren)

16. Caritasverband Offenburg-Kehl (Offenburg)

17. Catholic Concern for Animals (Chelmsford, United Kingdom)

18. Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (Nairobia, Kenya)

19. CatholicEcology.net (West Warwick, USA)

20. CatholicNetwork.US and Call to Action CO (Lakewood, USA)

21. Católicos en Red (Madrid, Spain)

22. Christian Life Community (Glen Rock, USA)

23. Claretian Missionaries (Rom, Italy)

24. CREA (Hartford, USA)

25. Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise (Saint Louis, USA)

26. Delegation of social and caritative pastoral of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)

27. Deutsche Provinz der Karmeliten KdöR (Bamberg)

28. Diócesis de Loja (Loja, Ecuador)

29. Eastern German Section of Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Magdeburg)

30. Erzbischöfliches Generalvikariat (Paderborn)

31. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada (London, Canada)

32. FIMCAP (Antwerpen, Belgien)

33. Franciscan Voice Canada OFS (Victoria, Canada)

34. Franciscans of Canada (Montréal, Canada)

35. Franziska Schervier Altenhilfe GmbH (Aachen)

36. Fundación Padre Jaime (Bogotá, Colombia)

37. Generalat der Missionsschwestern vom Kostbaren Blut (Mönchengladbach)

38. Iglesias y Minería (Sao. Paulo, Brazil)

39. Ignatian Solidarity Network (University Heights, USA)

40. Jesuitenmission Deutschland & Österreich (Nürnberg)

41. Jugendhaus AK Marienberg (Übach-Palenberg)

42. Kath. Kirchengemeinde Liebfrauen Holzwickede (Holzwickede)

43. kath. Kirchengemeinde St. Antonius u. St. Vinzenz Wickede (Ruhr)

44. Kath. Kirchengemeinde St. Peter und Paul (Lennestadt)

45. KDFB Diözesanverband Passau e.V. (Passau)

46. kfd Merseburg (Merseburg)

47. Kirchengemeinde St. Clemens (Dortmund)

48. KKV Hansa Bielefeld im Bundesverband der Katholiken in Wirtschaft und Verwaltung e.V. (Bielefeld)

49. Kloster Brandenburg (Dietenheim)

50. Kloster St. Koloman (Stockerau, Austria)

51. Kongregation der Franziskanerinnen Salzkotten (Salzkotten)

52. Kongregation der Schwestern der Christlichen Liebe (Paderborn)

53. LISTEN (Manly, Australia)

54. Marien Ambulant gGmbH (Siegen)

55. Medical Mission Sisters (Duisburg)

56. Mercy Investment Services, Inc. (Saint Louis, USA)

57. Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Rom, Italy)

58. Missions-Benediktinerinnen (Tutzing)

59. ND-KMF e.V. Region Paderborn (Paderborn)

60. OFM Capuchins (Rom, Italy)

61. Pax-Bank eG (Köln)

62. Pfarrei St. Liborius (Paderborn)

63. Pfarrei St. Peter und Paul (Bad Driburg)

64. Pope [St.] Paul VI Foundation (Washington, USA)

65. RAAD Red Argentina de Ambiente y Desarrollo (Beccar, Argentina)

66. Regional Secular Franciscan Western Canada (Osoyoos, Canada)

67. School Sisters of Notre Dame (Rom, Italy)

68. Secular Franciscan Order - National Fraternity of Canada (Nine Mile Creek, Canada)

69. Secular Franciscan Order (Victoria, Canada)

70. Sisters of Charity Federation (New York, USA)

71. Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership (Nazareth, USA)

72. Sisters of Notre Dame (Patna, India)

73. Sisters of Saint Francis (Rochester, USA)

74. Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity (Madera, USA)

75. Sisters of St. John of God (Wexford, Ireland)

76. Sisters of St. Joseph, Office of Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation (Brentwood, USA)

77. St. Elisabeth Stiftung (Detmold)

78. St. Franziskus Castrop-Rauxel (Castrop-Rauxel)

79. St. Pankratius (Iserlohn)

80. St. Rita Catholic Church (Fairfax, USA)

81. St. Ursula Stift zu Werl (Werl)

82. St.Marien gem GmbH (Balve)

83. Steyler Ethik Bank (Sankt Augustin)

84. Steyler Mission gGmbH (Sankt Augustin)

85. Steyler Mission gGmbH (Sankt Augustin)

86. Steyler Missionarinnen (Rom, Italy)

87. Stiftung Bildung ist Zukunft (Paderborn)

88. Tangaza University College (Nairobi, Kenya)

89. Together - Hilfe für Uganda e.V. (Kassel)

90. Universe of Faith - Pastoral Formation Institute (Floriana, Malta)

91. Wheaton Franciscan JPIC Office (Wheaton, USA)

92. Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (Bonn)

93. Žít Laudato si' Česká republika (Praha, Czech Republic)

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • Czech Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Germany
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Malta
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • USA
Information on the status of engagement

06/2021

On 24 June, Bank für Kirche und Caritas (BKC), the Special Commission on Integral Ecology and Mining for the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB) and the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) coordinated further steps in their engagement with Brazil to protect the Amazon and indigenous peoples, which was launched in March. After initial reactions from the Vice President's Office and the Ministry of Justice, we have now entered into a dialogue with FUNAI, the Brazilian government agency responsible for indigenous affairs. In addition to the demands we have already formulated, we are now very specifically addressing legislative proposals that are already in the process of being voted on, which will have a dramatic impact on the indigenous population and the protection of the Amazon.

BKC, GCCM, CNBB, who are leading this engagement with nearly 100 Catholic institutions, have once again emphasised how important it is to create awareness for the current situation and the threatening legislative proposals. Therefore, we already have an extensive exchange of information with like-minded investor groups, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to advance our engagement demands, and we will continue our networking activities intensively.

Our response letter to FUNAI can be found here.

 

06/2021

In addition to the initial response to our letter from the President's personal office, which forwarded our request to the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Justice, we have now received a reply from the Ministry of Justice. In a multi-page statement, FUNAI (Fundacao Nacional do Indio), which is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice and is the Brazilian governmental body for the affairs of the indigenous population of Brazil, presents its point of view. In addition, the Ministry of Justice has shown itself willing to engage in further dialogue. We are currently in the process of carefully analysing the feedback given and, based on this, seeking dialogue. We have also received a response from the Vice-President's personal office. In his response, it is stated that Amazon conservation is a priority on the Brazilian government's agenda and that the National Council for the Legal Amazon (CNAL) is responsible for its implementation. It was expressed that the CNAL is ready for a dialogue and we wrote to them.

We continue to be pleased with the great media attention that we have been able to achieve with our engagement. Well over 80 Brazilian and international media reported on this. This high media attention generates additional pressure on the Brazilian government from the public and important stakeholders. As planned, we held very fruitful discussions with various investor alliances that are also committed to protecting the Amazon. We discussed mutual support in advancing our common cause. Of great importance is here the possibility to mention to the Brazilian government that we are aware of the respective other engagement activities and are in an information exchange. This increases the pressure on the Brazilian government to act, which has been built up by investors.

 

04/2021

More than 60 media worldwide have reported on our engagement in different languages. Extremely renowned daily and financial media as well as Catholic media have reported on it. This high level of media attention is not only proof that our engagement represents an urgent issue, but also generates the necessary public attention to increase pressure on the Brazilian government. In response to our engagement letter to President Jair Bolsonaro, we received an official letter from the President's personal office confirming that our letter had been forwarded to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Environment due to the jurisdiction of our concern "Protection of the Amazon and Indigenous Peoples". This response may not be considered very significant in itself. However, representatives of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference confirmed that there is usually no response to similar attempts at dialogue. Thus, this initial response can be seen as positive and we hope for a willingness to dialogue in the coming weeks. As planned, we have made contact with various investor alliances that have already started similar engagement activities with Brazil. The aim is to examine how we can bring our common concern to the Brazilian government with more pressure through information exchange, mutual support and cooperation.

Media Clipping

 

03/2021

On 29 March 2021, a group of nearly 100 Catholic institutions, led by the The Special Commission on Integral Ecology and Mining for the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB), the international Catholic network Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and the German Catholic Church Bank Bank für Kirche und Caritas (BKC) sent a letter to high-ranking Brazilian government representatives and officials with clear demands to protect the Amazon and the indigenous people living there. The letter was sent by mail and email. In detail, the following addressees have been written to: President, Vice President, Minister for the Environment, President of the House of Representatives, President of the Federal Senate, President of the Federal Supreme Court, Attorney General of the Republic. In addition the engagement letter has been published as an open letter and given to the press. We now hope that the Brazilian government will be willing to start a dialogue.

Further information on Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG

As a Catholic church bank, the Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG has been offering a full range of banking services to its church and charitable clients since 1972. With total assets of around 5.6 billion euros and almost 150 employees, it meets the special requirements of church and charitable institutions. As a pioneer among banks in Germany, it has been implementing the ethical value orientation of its Catholic clients in its investments and overall banking business for nearly 20 years now.

In addition to the ethical-sustainable investment strategy developed by the bank, BKC Asset Management also implements specific ethical-sustainable requirements of the clients in their individual asset management or special funds.