By Harald Eraker
Storebrand's Environmental Fund's investments in the Lorentzen family's pulp-processing enterprise Aracruz Cellulose in Brazil will again cast a shadow over the Environmental Fund. Aracrus has for several years been in conflict with the Tupinikim and Guarani Indians who demand that the company should give back their traditional territories.
In January of this year, the Brazilian beurau for Indian affairs (FUNAI) recognized the indians' claim, and the land dispute has now reached the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs who will make a final decision on the case during the summer.
However, in an article in Dagens Næringsliv, March 25th, the director of the Environmental Fund, Carlos Joly, told the newspaper that they felt "comfortable with the investments in Aracruz." The Environmental Fund bases its assertion on, among other things, "a verdict made by the Supreme Court in Brazil stating that the native indians do not have the legal rights to the disputed area."
When NorWatch investigated the circumstances at the Environmental Fund, it turned out that the above-mentioned verdict by the Supreme Court had nothing at all to do with the case. The verdict referred to a conflict between the authorities and a different indian tribe in another part of the country in Roraima in the north of the Amazon, thousands of kilometers away from the land dispute of current interest between Aracruz Celulose and the Indians in Espirito Santo in southern Brazil. The Environmental Fund did actually have no knowledge about this ongoing land dispute. Carlos Joly could not given an answer to whether the verdict on the conflict in Roraima had anything to do with Aracruz.
The Fox Minding the Chicken Coupe
Director Joly emphasised to NorWatch that Storebrand's Environmental Fund has no expertese on indigenous rights in Brazil.
- We do not defend those who are destructive towards the native indians, says Joly.
But regarding Aracruz's environmental reputation, Joly has no doubt:
- Aracruz is undoubtedly better when it comes to plantations, and we have chosen to invest in Aracurz because the company is the most environmentally efficient in South America.
According to the Environmental Fund, the environmental evaluation of Aracruz is based on a study done by the independent Finnish consultancy company Jaakko Poyry. The problem with this study is, however, that Jaakko Poyry, according to sources that know Aracruz well, was also responsible for the development of Aracruz' factory and eucalyptus plantations.
Storebrand's Environmental Fund therefore bases its assessment of Aracruz on a consultancy firm's study that hardly can be called independent.
Jaakko Poyry is one of the leading, if not the leading, consultancy firms in the world when it comes to forestry, plantations and pulping. In addition it does not have a clean record themselves, according to the book "Pulping the South".
NorWatch has not succeeded in getting a comment from the Environmental Fund on Jaakko Poyry's role in this case. Earlier the Environmental Fund withdrew their investments from the mining company Rio Tinto Zinc and the waste handling company WMX after criticism from the Future in Our Hands and Bellona.
Storebrand's Environmental Fund has expressed a wish to meet the Brazilian delegation of indians which will visit Norway.
"Aracruz came and destroyed everything. They came with bulldozers and a large chain, and cleared away everything in their way. We found all types of animals dead. Then the forest disappeared, the birds died and the rivers dried out..."
Tupinikim Indians about Aracruz Celulose
Storebrand's Environmental Fund
The Storebrand Scudder Environmental Fund today manages 600 million kroners. In brief outline, the environmental criterion of the fund is that it shall invest in the 30 most environmentally efficient companies within their fields. Factors such as global warming, discharge, use of energy and environmental practices are evaluated.
Norwatch Newsletter 6/97