Civil service pension fund admits Mozambique forestry mistakes

Civil service pension fund ABP has invested millions of euros in forestry projects in Mozambique which appear not have met its own ethical standards, the fund said in a statement at the weekend.

ABP, one of the biggest pension funds in the world, was commenting on a report in the Volkskrant which said the project to grow Eucalyptus and pine trees had resulted in widespread land theft from the local population.
ABP said it takes the claims very seriously. ‘We have already expressed our grave concerns to GSFF about the project management and put on the pressure for replacements. The CEO was replaced in 2011, as was the chairman of the board and the CEO of the four GSFF subsidiaries in Mozambique,’ the statement said.
‘We trust this new management and expect they will get the project back on the rails so that this investment meets ABP demands.’
ABP took a 54% share in the Scandinavian Global Solidarity Forest Fund (GSFF) in 2007. The fund is operated by Global Solidarity Forestry International, an international asset manager owned by the diocese of Västerås (Sweden), Sweden’s Lutheran church and Norwegian ‘Lutheran Church endowment’.
The fund did not have control over the GSFF but did make an agreement that the wood would get proper FSC certificates to show it was an ethical investment. According to the Volkskrant, ABP has invested €47m in the project.
However, several reports from ngos, farming organisations and the Mozambique government said small farmers were being threatened, farms burned down and crops destroyed.
In September Mozambique farmers made an urgent appeal to western investors to stop this sort of project because land was being stolen and small farmers exploited.
‘We do not understand why church institutions and other investment funds are putting money in projects which are exploiting the poorest of the poor,’ the Volkskrant quoted the fund as saying.

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