CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and the role of NGOs in BDS Divestment Campaigns in Europe
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Individual Country CSR Reports
- Norway Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- Sweden Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- Denmark Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- United Kingdom Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- Ireland Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- France Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- Belgium Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- The Netherlands Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- Germany Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report
- A network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and CSR companies are active in promoting boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in Europe, by lobbying institutions and corporations to divest from Israel.
- In order to advance their BDS agenda, these groups assert false factual claims and distort legal narratives to accuse Israel of human rights violations and erroneously argue that conducting business with Israel amounts to furthering these alleged violations.
- These campaigns are based on double standards. In many instances, the Arab-Israeli conflict is the only armed conflict addressed. Massive labor and human rights violations occurring in oil-rich and economically powerful countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and China are virtually ignored by NGOs and European CSR companies.
- The NGOs and the CSR partners behind these campaigns deny the context of terrorism, often seeking to sanction companies that provide Israel with products and services to defend civilian populations from attack. These groups ignore international legal obligations on countries to protect their citizens and to prohibit material support for terrorism. The refusal by the NGOs and CSR groups to acknowledge this context in their decision-making processes, their selective approach to international law, and their disregard of Israel’s legal right to self-defense are themselves unethical and immoral.
- CSR comprises policies, norms, and standards that combine finance and business with environmental, human rights, and ethical standards. However, the examples in this report show that political perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict, not ethics or international legal standards, determine CSR-related initiatives targeting Israeli companies and companies that do business in Israel.
- A central feature of CSR/BDS campaigns by NGOs is false legal arguments, such as:
- The claim that private corporations are subject to international humanitarian law (IHL). In actuality, every court ruling on this issue has confirmed that only states are subject to this body of law.
- The claim that conducting business over the 1949 armistice line is illegal. In fact, courts in France, Canada, and the UK have explicitly found no such prohibition under international law. In this vein, the Netherlands advertising board ruled it defamatory to claim a company selling goods or operating over armistice lines was acting “illegally” or in violation of international law.
- The claim that building the Light Rail train in Jerusalem violates international law. On this issue, a French court noted that occupation law allows for the building of transportation infrastructure.
- Reliance on the discredited 2004 International Court of Justice “advisory opinion” on Israel’s security barrier. The decision, which has no binding force in international law, has been criticized by many legal scholars for being based on a one-sided conclusory mandate, procedural irregularities, completely ignoring the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign (and the role of the security barrier in preventing attacks), and faulty interpretations of international law. Moreover, the opinion does not address liability of corporate activity.
- NGOs and interest groups lobby ethical committees in governments (Ethical Councils) and corporations in an effort to divest from Israel by referring to positions and studies carried out by CSR companies. Often, these actors have strong ties with governmental institutions, raising the possibility of conflicts of interest and doubts about their independence.
- For example, some members of the Norwegian Ethical Council also work in the same CSR companies that advise the Council. CSR company SIGLA’s founder and director, Ylva Lindbergh, is currently a member of the Norwegian Ethical Council, which advises the Ministry of Finance on divestment decisions. Among its clients are other divestment actors: the companies Hydro and Nordea, as well as a CSR company, Ethix, which is involved in Danish divestment campaigns.
- The European NGOs involved in CSR attacks include:
- The “European Coordination Committee and Associations for Palestine,” a network that includes Norwegian, French, and Irish NGOs. Also linked to major Palestinian and Israeli NGOs that share a commitment to BDS against Israel.
- In 2013, Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) partnered with Intal (Belgium) for a campaign against the Dexia bank.
- In Ireland, the Catholic association Trócaire and the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign cooperate on several anti-Israel advocacy projects, including pressing for sanctions against Israel in the OECD. Trócaire is member of the UK-based Ecumenical Council on Corporate Responsibility, promoting divestment campaigns in the UK.
- In 2012, the French FIDH (Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme) and CCFD-Terre Solidaire helped publish “Trading Away Peace,” which repeats the BDS agenda, calling on the EU and national governments to wage political warfare through various forms of economic sanctions on Israel. The publication was drafted in cooperation with several other NGOs, such as Diakonia (Sweden), Norwegian People’s Aid, Christian Aid (UK), and Trócaire (Ireland).
- Decision makers – banks, corporations, governmental authorities – often rely on an extremely narrow set of sources, which are not fully disclosed, in deciding upon economic sanctions. They also fail to demonstrate the existence of violations of international norms or connections between corporate activity and the alleged violations. The lack of transparency, coupled with the distorted legal arguments mentioned above, reflect the political nature of BDS campaigns that aim to delegitimize Israel.
- The quasi-judicial procedures of the Ethical Councils do not fully respect due process:
- It is unclear the extent to which the Councils attempt to obtain company participation in the process, despite the reputational and economic damage of a negative decision.
- It is unknown to what extent “investigated” companies are given the opportunity to present a defense.
- Details on appeals processes or procedures for “de-listing” are not publically available.
- Divestment actors mobilize activists to become shareholders in a targeted company in order to advance divestment motions through a practice called “shareholders’ activism”:
- The German NGO Kritische Aktionäre, in cooperation with other groups, used shareholders’ activism to promote divestment campaigns at Deutsche Bank and Thyssen Group.
- Belgium activists became shareholders in Dexia in order to participate in Dexia’s 2011 annual meeting; half of the three-hour meeting was consumed by discussion of Dexia’s investments in Israel.
- The Swedish Ethical Council uses shareholders’ activism to pressure corporations to comply with its standards or face divestment.
- Through divestment campaigns, NGOs reinforce Palestinian rejectionism and anti-normalization policies (i.e., opposition to cooperation with Israelis) and act as a disincentive for efforts by the parties in the conflict to overcome their divisions and seek a peaceful solution based on compromise.
|Country||NGO and Church Groups||CSR, Governmental, and Union Bodies||Israeli and Palestinian NGOs|
|Norway||Norwegian People’s Aid, Palestinakomiteen, and Ecumenical Council of the Church of Norway||International Law Policy Institute, SIGLA, Ethix, the Ethical Council (Ministry of Finance), Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet),||
Adalah,Alternative Information Center, Coalition of Women for Peace, Gisha,ICAHD, Who Profits, and Zochrot in Israel;
Addamer, Al-Haq,Al-Mezan, and Badil in the Palestinian Authority
|Sweden||Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden (PGS), Kvinna till Kvinna, SwedWatch, and Christian organizations Diakonia and the Swedish Church||GES Investment Services, Ethix in connection with the Ethical Council of Swedish Pension Funds|
|Denmark||DanWatch, Boykot Israel||CSR companies include Sustainalytics, GES Investment Services, Ethix, Hermes EOS.|
|UK||Corporate Watch, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Stop G4S, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Boycott Israel Network; Christian groups such as ECCR (Ecumenical Council on Corporate Responsibility) and The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group||Government pension funds Pensionskassernes Administration (PKA) and Pension Denmark|
|Ireland||Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Trócaire, and Sadaka; ECCR (Ecumenical Council of Corporate Responsibility)|
|Germany||Pax Christi-Germany, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)||SRI Kritische Aktionäre|
|Netherlands||United Civilians for Peace (UCP) , a platform established by the Dutch NGOs Inter-Church Organization for Development and Cooperation (ICCO), Cordaid, Pax Christi, Oxfam Novib; The Rights Forum||AIV (Adviesraad Internationale Vraagstukken) a quasi-governmental body funded by the Dutch government and tasked with advising the Dutch Ministry of Development and Cooperation, PGGM/PFZW (Dutch Pension Fund), and ABVAKABO FNV trade union|
|Belgium||Coordination Boycott Israel (COBI) including: Flemish Palestine Committee (VPK), Association Belgo-Palestinienne (ABP), Citizen Movement Palestine (MCP), Centre for Development, Documentation and Information on Palestine (CODIP), Flemish Palestine Committee (VPK), Vrede, and Intal, FIDH, and Belgian sections of Pax Christi International - Pax Christi Vlaanderen and Pax Christi Wallonie-Bruxelles||Triodos Bank, a Netherlands-based bank with a branch in Belgium that claims to be a pioneer in “ethical banking”|
|France||AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité), FIDH (Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme), and CCFD-Terre Solidaire, the European Coordination Committee and Associations for Palestine||Novethic and Ethix|
Major BDS Campaigns
|Country||Year||Targeted companies/ industries||Divesting Body/ Campaign||NGO involvement|
|Germany||2010||Elbit||Deutsche Bank||Kritische Aktionäre
Pax Christi-Germany International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)
Brot für die Welt,
|2013||“Settlement” products||Labeling||Misereor, Al-Haq, Pax Christi-Germany|
|2013||Arms industry||ThyssenKrupp||Kritische Aktionäre|
|2014||Hanson Israel||Heidelberg Cement||Kritische Aktionäre , Pax Christi-Germany|
|Norway||2006||Bank Hapoalim; Emblaze Ltd;|
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd; Caterpillar Inc.
|Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund||Council on Ecumenical and International Relations of the Church of Norway|
|2008||Israel Electric Company (IEC)||Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund||Norwegian People’s Aid, Palestinakomiteen, Gisha, Badil|
|2009||Elbit Systems Ltd.||Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund||Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, Women Against Violence, Coalition of Women for Peace, Stop the Wall|
|2009, revoked in April 2013 and reintroduced in November 2013||Africa Israel and Danya Cebus Ltd.||Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund||Adalah-NY Palestinian BDS National Committee, Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, Palestinian anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Norwegian People’s Aid Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees|
|2011||Shikun & Binui Ltd.||Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund||No information disclosed.|
|2013||Cemex||Nordea Bank, and SIGLA||Norwegian People’s Aid, together with Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees|
|2013||G4S||University of Oslo||Students’ Palestine Committee|
|2013||G4S||Industri Energi Trade Union||Addameer, Palestinakomiteen|
|France||2005 -2006||Veolia, Alstom||Construction of Jerusalem’s light rail train||Palestinian BDS National Committee, Stop The wall, Amnesty International|
|2009||Veolia, Alstom||Construction of Jerusalem’s light rail train||Norwegian People’s Aid and the Norwegian Representative Office to the Palestinian Authority|
|2007 -2011||Veolia, Alstom||Versailles Court of Appeals||AFPS (Association France-Palestine Solidarité, Amnesty International-France)|
|2012||“Settlement” products labeling||French Members of Parliament||AFPS (Association France-Palestine Solidarité), Fédération International des Droits de l’Homme) and CCFD-Terre Solidaire Norwegian People’s Aid, Irish Trócaire, Swedish Diakonia, Norwegian Church Aid, British Christian Aid|
Sha’ar Hayarden project
|Ethics and Development conference||Maison des Tiers-Mondes et de la Solidarité Internationale|
|2013||Dexia||Shareholderss||AFPS (Association France-Palestine Solidarité)|
|Ireland||2007||Mashav Group Ltd||Cement Roadstone Holding (CRH)||Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Palestinian Federation of General Trade Unions, Jews for Justice for Palestinians|
|Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Sadaka|
|2010||“Settlement” products labeling||Irish MP and political parties||Sadaka|
Mashav Group Ltd
|Cement Roadstone Holding (CRH)|
|Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)|
|2010 - 2014||Ethical councils of investment||Irish MP and political parties|
|Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Palestine Centre for Human Rights, ECCR (Ecumenical Council on Corporate Responsibility), Sadaka|
|Belgium||2007||Otzar Hashilton Hamekomi (OSM) Bank||Dexia Bank||Alternative Information Centre, Coordination Boycott Israel (COBI), Palestina Solidariteit (PS), Association Belgo-Palestinienne (ABP), Vrede, Citoyen Mouvement Palestine (MCP),|
|2014||“Made in illegality”||Various Belgian companies||Intal, Vrede, Palestina Solidariteit, ABP,FIDH, local branches of Pax Christi|
|2014||Supposed contract to build ports in Ashdod and Haifa||Jan De Nul||Belgo-Palestinian Association, Belgium Algemene Centrale van het ABVV (Trade Union), Intal, Belgium Vredesactie, Belgium Palestina Solidariteit, Belgium Nordine Saidi for Citizen Movement Palestine, Belgium (MCP), The Palestine Committee Verviers, Belgium|
|UK||2009||“Settlement” produce||UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) voluntary labeling guidelines||Oxfam, War on Want|
|2012||Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh, Mehadrin||Co-Operative Group produce boycott||Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Boycott Israel Network (BIN)|
|2012||G4S||Stop G4S||Corporate Watch,Addameer, Adalah,Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) ,Defence for Children International - Palestine Section ,Coalition of Women for Peace/ Who Profits.|
|2013||G4S||Complaint at the UK National Contact Point (NCP)||Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)|
|2013||Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot||PGGM (Dutch Pension Fund)||Cordaid, ICCO, IKV PaxChristi, Oxfam Novib, Werkgroep Keerpunt and the Dutch Palestine Committee|
|Netherlands||2013||Mekorot||Vitens Water Company||Cordaid, ICCO, IKV PaxChristi, Oxfam Novib|
|2013||Waste water treatment facility||Royal HaskoningDHV||Cordaid, ICCO, IKV PaxChristi|
|2010||Africa Israel Investments and Elbit||Danske Bank,||Ethix|
|Denmark||Non available||Danya Cebus, Elbit, Aryt Industries Ltd.||Danske Bank||Ethix|
|Non-available||Ashot, Magal Security Systems, Ltd., Elbit Systems, Ltd., Aryt Industries Ltd.||Pensionskassernes Administration (PKA)||Sustainalytics|
|Non-available||Aryt Industries Ltd.||Pension Denmark||Hermes EOS|
|2014||Bank HaPoalim||Danske Bank,||Ethix|
|2014||Ahava Products||Magasin, Salling Matas health care store||ICAHD, Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP)|
|2008||Assa Abloy||Publication of “Illegal Ground: Assa Abloy's business in occupied Palestinian territory ”||Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS, Palestina Grupperna i Sverige ), Swedwatch, Diakonia and The Church of Sweden|
|Sweden||2009||Elbit Systems Ltd.||Swedish Ethical Council|
|2010||Alstom and Veolia||Swedish Ethical Council|
|2010||Motorola||Swedish Ethical Council|
|2013||G4S||Church of Sweden in Umeå||Church of Sweden, Diakonia|