Investors must respect the rights of indigenous peoples to protect the Amazon

The campaign's efforts have helped investors increasingly recognize the rights of indigenous peoples because their communities play an important role in protecting and maintaining the world's biodiversity.

However, most investors and the private sector have not done enough to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. This poses risks not only for businesses but, ultimately, for the planet.

When investors do not understand and respect the rights of indigenous peoples, they not only risk reputational damage, but also overlook important business risks that can cause companies and investors to lose billions of dollars due to cost overruns, delays and project cancellations.

Until recently, many social and environmental standards and guidance documents used by investors rarely specifically mentioned the rights of indigenous peoples. To fill this void, Amazon Watch has published a due diligence toolkit for indigenous rights investors. Respecting the rights of indigenous peoples is essential to protect the Amazon and protect companies from financial risk.

Legal recognition of indigenous territories

The legal recognition of indigenous territories is crucial to protect the Amazon, a fact increasingly appreciated by investors. For example, Storbrand's Conservation Policy recognizes that “Ensuring that the traditional rights of indigenous peoples are widely accepted is the most effective way to protect biodiversity and ensure the sustainable use of nature".

Conversely, failure to respect indigenous peoples' rights can create systemic risks related to nature loss and irreversible climate and biodiversity hotspots.

The rights of indigenous peoples are protected by a growing network of international instruments and jurisprudence, including FPIC – the right of indigenous peoples to introduce or reject activities that affect their lives, lands, territories and resources.

Risks for investors

Therefore, failure by companies and investors to comply with these legal regulations will create many risks. For example, legal risks could include courts suspending licenses or permits granted to companies that operate without the consent of indigenous peoples.

Operational risks may include protests that cause delays or even permanent interruptions in project execution. This can create significant financial risks for investors, as well as loss of reputation.

A study of 330 oil, gas and mining projects found that business "leaders" (those whose companies demonstrated the most respect for indigenous rights) outperformed "laggards" (by 4% between 2010 and 2014).

Globally, indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by corporate activities, including the mining, renewable energy and agribusiness sectors, as well as by the rise of “nature-based solutions.

Although the rights of indigenous peoples are firmly established in international law, these areas remain incomplete. For example, in the Amazon, more than 31 million hectares of oil overlap indigenous territories and there is virtually no evidence that the right of indigenous peoples to voluntarily give or withhold prior consent to develop such blocks has ever been respected. tankers.

In the mining sector, many companies have a policy of "seeking to achieve" or "seeking to obtain" the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, in accordance with the Position Statement of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) on Indigenous Peoples. Towns. These rules are misleading because they do not prevent projects from moving forward if indigenous people refuse consent, allow companies to violate the rules, or are complicit in violations.

The agroindustrial sector not only contributes to the invasion and deforestation of indigenous territories, but also poisons indigenous communities with pesticides. Renewable energy sectors are increasingly at risk of violating the rights of indigenous peoples, but most renewable energy companies still do not have adequate policies to address this issue.

In the carbon credit market, many projects were found to violate the rights of indigenous peoples.
In the emerging market for biodiversity credits, many initiatives have been discovered that bypass them, making them indistinguishable from carbon credits in this respect.

Indigenous peoples and voluntary isolation

Latin America is also home to approximately 185 distinct indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation, whose decision to remain isolated must be respected under international law. However, their survival and existence are permanently threatened by mining activities. In Brazil alone, more than 4.000 mining claims have been filed in areas where 71 indigenous peoples live in voluntary isolation.

If these permits are approved, it could lead to the disappearance of many indigenous peoples and genocide. Global demand for minerals has also led to a rise in informal mining in the Amazon, often carried out by organized crime groups, wreaking havoc across the region, polluting waterways and causing increased violence in local communities. . There is compelling evidence that these minerals participate in global value chains.

Some investors are taking steps to protect the rights of indigenous peoples

A small but growing number of investors have initiated shareholder engagement to protect indigenous rights. In recent years, investment initiatives such as the Investor Policy Dialogue on Deforestation y Nature Action 100+ to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

However, to date, investors have generally failed to develop and implement appropriate indigenous rights policies. ShareAction's review found that only 10 of the world's 77 largest asset managers have free, prior and informed consent policies for local people.

Which way to take?

International standards, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, establish that all companies and investors have a responsibility to respect human rights and prevent and mitigate negative impacts, prioritizing the most serious impacts.

Adverse impacts on indigenous peoples are often particularly severe, especially in the Amazon.
People who try to defend their rights often become victims of criminalization, intimidation, threats and harassment by the government, as well as disappearances and violence, including even murder.

Furthermore, failure to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and the vital ecosystems within their territories will not only affect their rights but also the rights of current and future generations around the world.

Respect for indigenous rights: a set of practical tools for institutional investors provides investors with a starting point to educate themselves and others about indigenous rights, as well as practical tools to develop policies, case studies and data sources to identify and address abuses of indigenous rights.

With information of: