Investors Call on Oil Company to Adopt Policy on Indigenous Peoples

Amazon Indigenous Peoples Reaffirm Opposition to Burlington’s Plans to Drill on Their Sacred Homelands

BOSTON, MA – Today Boston Common Asset Management filed a shareholder resolution with Houston-based Burlington Resources Inc. calling on the company to adopt a policy on indigenous peoples. Boston Common filed the resolution on behalf of its client, the Brethren Benefit Trust, Inc. in response to the growing controversy around Burlington’s oil operations in the Amazon basin.

Burlington’s operations have provoked strong opposition from local indigenous peoples on whose traditional territories the company hopes to drill. During a trip to the US this week to build support for his people’s efforts to protect their rainforest homeland, the Achuar’s elected leader Milton Callera, reaffirmed his people’s opposition to Burlington’s oil projects.

“Given the critical threat that Achuar, Shuar and Kichwa indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon now face due to the presence of oil companies, we must defend our territory,” explained Callera. “The Achuar people ask Burlington to withdraw from the oil blocks 23 and 24, as we already have sufficient experience with the company violating our rights.”

The shareholder resolution requests that the Burlington Board “adopt a formal written policy on the rights of indigenous peoples and issue a report on this policy, prepared at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, to be made available to shareholders by August 2004.”

The Achuar people number some 5,000 and live in a remote, intact rainforest region that they seek to protect from the damages witnessed in oil blocks in the northern regions of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Along with their neighbors the Shuar, Zapara, Shiwiar and Kichwa, for several years the Achuar have effectively blocked Burlington resources from beginning operations on their land through peaceful means including filing an injunction against the company.

Concerned investors and indigenous supporters see this resolution as a critical step in galvanizing investor support for the company to adopt socially and environmentally friendly policies and move away from risky projects.

“We believe that Burlington’s operations that harm the rights of indigenous peoples may pose a significant business risk that the company should address for its shareholders,” explained Steven Heim of Boston Common Asset Management in the letter sent to Burlington yesterday along with the resolution.

During a press conference today Heim elaborated further. “Burlington needs to show their ability to obtain local consent including respect for indigenous peoples rights in the areas they operate if they are to expand their business in the future.”

“A growing number of investors expect companies to adopt and develop human rights policies that protect the rights of people and the long-term value of the corporation,” said Rev. David M. Schilling, director of the global corporate accountability program of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of 275 Catholic, Jewish and Protestant institutions. “Indigenous rights is a key component to a sound human rights policy. Burlington Resources needs to take action to address concerns raised by indigenous groups in Ecuador opposing company operations on their land.”

Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch recently returned from meeting with indigenous leaders in Ecuador and emphasized the situation’s urgency.

“Burlington may be moving into the area forcibly with the Ecuadorian military as early as next month. The company now finds itself at the center of some of the Amazon basin’s most controversial projects that could erupt in violence. This situation will be closely monitored and scrutinized by investors and the greater public.”

Kenny Bruno, Campaigns Coordinator for EarthRights International also expressed concern about the situation on the ground.

“If Burlington’s oil activities in Sarayacu, Ecuador, go forward now, it will be in violation of human rights, at the expense of the community and the environment. This Resolution can be part of a process of educating and sensitizing Burlington management and shareholders regarding the legal issues and the human issues related to their Amazon operations.”

Published On: November 20, 2003Categories: From the Commons