The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) today made public its new environmental and social standards, which will govern financing of clients in high-impact sectors including Canada’s tar sands. The announcement marks a significant about face on tar sands by one of the sectors biggest financiers. The policy is the first by a major international bank to document whether bank clients have received consent from Indigenous communities. This follows nearly two years of campaigning by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) alongside First Nations concerned about the negative impacts of tar sands development.
Just week’s after Canada signed on to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), RBC’s policy breaks significant new ground among international banks with its handling of Indigenous rights. For bank clients in high-impact sectors, including the tar sands, the policy guides bankers to document where client activities impact Indigenous communities and the status of consultation with those communities. Bankers will have to examine whether clients have “policies and processes consistent with the standard of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.”
“With RBC’s new policy, the banking giant has made a promise to take responsibility for its financing in the tar sands and to uphold the rights of First Nations. We commend the bank for its new commitment, and look forward to seeing policy put into practice,” said Brant Olson, campaign director for the Rainforest Action Network. “RBC is raising the bar for the financial sector and signaling to oil and gas corporations that it is time to take environmental and human rights seriously.”