WWF calls on all banks to take action to safeguard World Heritage Sites

Posted on 13 June 2017

Global banks need to tighten their policies to prevent them from financing companies whose activities could damage World Heritage sites
• Global banks need to tighten their policies to prevent them from financing companies whose activities could damage World Heritage sites
• WWF report shows how banks can play their part in safeguarding our critical natural capital​

Gland, Switzerland: A new report by WWF reveals that, despite some good practice, no major global bank has robust enough policies in place to safeguard World Heritage sites.

A WWF survey of UK citizens found that 66 per cent of people expect their bank not to fund any activity that might cause damage to World Heritage sites.

Despite being awarded the highest levels of protection by the United Nations, almost half of all World Heritage sites listed for their natural values are threatened by harmful industrial practices such as oil and gas exploration and mining. As providers of capital, banks lend to companies whose activities have the potential to cause damage to World Heritage sites, unless they have a specific and robust enough policy in place to protect against it. These unique places are home to some of the world’s most endangered animals, such as elephants, tigers and rhinos, and help provide livelihoods to over 11 million people.

Aslihan Tumer, Head of Global Campaigns at WWF, said:
“From the Galápagos Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, UNESCO World Heritage sites are some of the most remarkable places on earth. We should be doing everything we can to protect these unique sites, yet shockingly nearly half of natural and mixed sites are currently under threat from harmful industrial activities. Banks are uniquely placed to prevent this by ensuring they do not lend to companies that could cause irreversible damage.

“Banks need to step up and take responsibility for securing the future of World Heritage sites. Despite some good practice, no major global bank has robust enough policies in place to safeguard these special places, leaving both wildlife and local communities at risk. There is an opportunity here for banks to pave the way for change; by acting in the long term interests of the planet and our economies, instead of short term gains, banks can make a genuine difference."

WWF’s report - with research undertaken by ECOFACT - looks into the role of the finance industry in safeguarding these important sites and outlines the urgent action required by banks. The report details the steps that need to be taken by banks that do not have existing guidelines as well as those that have policies in place that are not being well implemented. This includes advice on how to develop, improve and put in place a clearly worded policy, ensure it is implemented robustly, and the best ways to communicate it.

The International Council of Mining and Metals has a commitment not to operate in World Heritage sites. CEO Tom Butler said:
“Our members voluntarily decided in 2003, not to mine or explore in World Heritage sites to protect these precious places. Yet 14 years later, these sites are still at risk from other companies and industries. The conservation of World Heritage sites is a collective responsibility we all share and ICMM would like to see, in the context of financing, more banks move to support those businesses committed to acting responsibly. This will help ensure the outstanding universal value of World Heritage sites is protected for future generations.”
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Notes to Editors

For further information, and interview requests, please contact:
Scott Edwards | WWF | sedwards@wwfint.org | +44 7887 954116

1. Images of World Heritage sites are available here.
2. How banks can safeguard our world heritage is available on request. The report was compiled by WWF-UK and WWF Switzerland. Research was conducted by ECOFACT.
3. The report is part of a WWF global campaign, Together, Saving Our Shared Heritage, which launched in April 2016 to safeguard natural World Heritage sites. Over 1 million people have taken advocacy actions to political and business leaders including the leaders of Belize, Bulgaria, Spain, Mexico and Tanzania within the first 12 months of the campaign: https://makeyourmark.panda.org/
4. The poll of 2038 people was carried out by Populus for WWF-UK (May/June 2017).
5. A 2016 report published by WWF details the issues faced by natural World Heritage sites and how safeguarding these areas of outstanding universal value can drive sustainable development.
6. In April 2017, WWF published a report on illegal wildlife trafficking in World Heritage sites. Despite their recognized value and protected status, the report found that illegal fishing, poaching and logging occur in nearly 50 per cent of natural World Heritage sites, driving endangered species like tigers, elephants and rhinos to the brink of extinction and putting the livelihoods and wellbeing of communities who depend on them at risk.
7. In 2015 WWF, Aviva Investors and Investec Asset Management published a report showing that almost a third of world heritage sites listed for their natural value were under threat of oil, gas and mining exploration.

About WWF
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit www.panda.org/news for latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media
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