The role of banks in the Dirty Diesel scandal

A new publication by the NGO BankTrack sheds a crude light on the role of banks in funding trading of toxic fuel. Although the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights require banks to carry out reasonable due diligence in the framework of their activities and use their influence to prevent human rights’ violations, they would appear to take this responsibility rather too lightly.
© Photo: Carl de Keyzer / Magnum

Raw materials’ traders, Trafigura and Vitol have been funded by 26 banks around the world since 2012. This includes Crédit Suisse and UBS, with funding totalling over 100 billion USD. Both these companies export high sulphur content fuel that is a health hazard to West Africa and other regions of the world. As denounced by Public Eye in September 2016, these fuels are banned in Europe. Following the publication of the report, seven of the banks questioned claim that they tried to hold discussions with the leading Swiss traders – but they all accepted the statements made by Trafigura and Vitol without verifying the truth of the content. And none of them brought any pressure whatsoever to bear on the traders to reconsider their pernicious business model. They do not appear to be truly interested in taking responsibility for the consequences of their banking activities.

The BankTrack briefing

The banks' replies