Forests protect our climate, but this bank is profiting from destroying them

By Rosa Vollmer

Around the world, our greatest protection against the climate crisis is going up in flames. Forests are our greatest line of defense against worsening climate chaos, but they’re being destroyed at unprecedented rates. Big Agribusiness was behind the massive forest fires in the Amazon and Indonesia. So who’s profiting off of rainforest destruction??


While banks are getting a lot of attention for financing fossil fuels, their track record on deforestation is just as bad. Too many of these banks are financing Big Agriculture’s insatiable hunger for more land, and are complicit in the destruction of the planet’s last pristine rainforests by financing palm oil and pulp & paper businesses in Southeast Asia.

Demand candymakers cut conflict candy!
October 12th, lowland rainforests cleared in the Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra, Indonesia, for palm oil.

The largest bank in Japan is also the No. 1 funder of both fossil fuels and deforestation.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) –- also known as Union Bank in the U.S. — is Japan’s largest bank. It’s not only financing the construction of more coal plants around the world, but also aiding the destruction of some of the most critical carbon sinks in the world – tropical forests and peatlands.

Its reckless financing has been catastrophic for biodiversity and Indigenous communities, and it’s a double whammy on the climate.  

MUFG is also directly linked to the devastating fires we’re seeing around the world. RAN’s latest report found that between 2017 and August 2019, MUFG provided over 400 million USD in loans and underwriting to the agribusiness operations of companies who had their plantations sealed by the Indonesian Government in 2019 due to the fires.

The 2019 fires in Indonesia emitted an estimated 709 million tons of GHG emissions, which alone made Indonesia the sixth largest carbon-emitting country in the world.

In addition to coal, MUFG is also the big money behind Enbridge’s “Line 3”, the controversial tar sands pipeline leading from Alberta through Indigenous lands in Minnesota to the Great Lakes. If that’s not bad enough, MUFG is also one of the biggest financiers of Conflict Palm Oil in the world, having pumped $550 million into the industry just in the past 2.5 years. That’s one hell of a climate bashing and human rights abusing bad bank!

Need a cheat sheet on MUFG’s bad deeds?

  • It funds dirty fossil fuel projects around the world
  • It invests in Conflict Palm Oil operations and deforestation
  • It does not respect Indigenous rights to free and prior consent

And it’s doing all this despite endorsing the UN Principles for Responsible Banking and publicly committing to align its business strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

What do we call a bank like MUFG? A HUGE HYPOCRITE

Rainforest Action Network call on MUFG to stop lending to Conflict Palm Oil, fossil fuel expansion and other harms ahead of annual shareholder meeting

As one of the largest banks in the world, MUFG can have a major influence on the rest of the banking sector. That’s why we’re raising the alarm about MUFG, with actions planned throughout the spring and summer in Union Bank branches on the US West Coast and advocacy work on MUFG’s leadership both in the US and in Japan. If we can get MUFG to stop financing deforestation and fossil fuel expansion, and require community consent (FPIC) to projects, then we can set a new standard for the financial sector in Japan and around the world.

It’s time for MUFG to put their money where their mouth is and make sure their financing is contributing to our sustainable future.

RAN calls on MUFG to stop lending to Conflict Palm Oil, fossil fuel expansion ahead of annual shareholder meeting