There are many areas in the world disputed by countries or groups of people that claim rights on the land based on historical or religious grounds. The Palestinian Occupied Territories are one well-known example but many such areas exist. How does Triodos deal with companies active in such areas?

Human rights often ignored

Disputed territories are countries or internationally recognized sovereign states whose possession or control is in serious political or violent dispute. They are often a cause of long-term occupancy or war. Examples include Western Sahara, Tibet, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kashmir, and West Papua.
In most situations, human rights of the local (indigenous) population or minority groups are violated in different ways by the occupying regime. In most cases the right of self-determination and the freedom to move are not respected. The suppressed group is often denied access to local resources such as land, water and raw materials without compensation. They have less job opportunities, with worse labour circumstances, and are discriminated in favour of the suppressors. Human rights violations worsen if the occupying party settles in the area, as is the case in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Companies in disputed territories

Due to the complexity and the diversity of disputed territories, it is not always easy to determine what’s appropriate and what is not, in terms of a company’s cooperation with the (occupying) regime and direct involvement in violations of human rights – activities can also have a positive impact. If we find evidence that a company is active in occupied/disputed areas, we assess the involvement on a case-by-case basis. The opinion of the United Nations on the specific area is leading and, we take into account the impact of the company’s activities on the indigenous people of the area to determine if there are any benefits.

Case study: Potash Corporation

The former Spanish colony, Western Sahara, is now for the larger part controlled by Morocco, including all major cities and natural resources (mainly phosphate and fish). Morocco uses military forces to control the area and has even built a barrier around it, the Moroccan Wall.  The people that live in the area have limited freedom of movement even outside the restricted areas. The local (Sahrawi) population is suppressed and discriminated and does not benefit from activities in the area. Canadian Potash Corporation is the largest purchaser of phosphate rock from Western Sahara. The mining of phosphate is declared unlawful by the UN on account of breaches of international human rights, unless the local population benefits. When assessing the company for investment by Triodos Bank we concluded that the benefits for local population is limited, despite efforts of Potash to stimulate the local economy and to improve education, health, and cultural activities in the region. The company is therefore excluded for investment by Triodos Bank.

 Note: The issues explored in this article are relevant for sustainable investments on the stock market. Triodos Bank believes that our socially responsible investments are a powerful means of promoting our values and working for greater sustainability, while enabling us to offer a complete range of attractive investment options to customers who choose to invest on the stock market.