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UK banks and cluster bombs: RBS announces u-turn

Amnesty International today welcomed the Royal Bank of Scotland’s announcement that it will stop investing in companies which produce cluster bombs. The bank also announced its commitment to work with other banks and the UK government to establish guidelines which would stop British banks from investing in cluster bomb producing companies in the future.

Following intense campaigning by Amnesty International, RBS has agreed to cease its investment in companies which are known producers of cluster munitions.

The bank has also promised to cut any links with companies involved in producing these deadly weapons, which are banned under UK law. Previously, RBS - which is majority owned by the UK taxpayer - had repeatedly insisted that it did not invest in cluster munitions manufacturers.

Since Amnesty International launched its campaign on 16 August, more than 10,000 people have emailed Stephen Hester, the CEO of RBS, to demand that the company stop investing in cluster munitions producing companies.

Amnesty also invited public donation to fund an advertising campaign to reveal RBS’s investment in companies which produce the banned cluster munitions, which received overwhelming public support.

Amnesty International’s Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said:

“It is good news that RBS have decided to cease investing in companies which produce cluster bombs.

“The effects of cluster bombs are utterly horrific and so many RBS customers were outraged to find their bank was in any way involved in funding companies implicated in their production.

“The swift and immense reaction to our campaign has underscored the public revulsion at banks’ behaviour. A code of conduct which prevents any bank from investing in this way again, would obviously be the right move.

“It is a shame that it took this level of public outcry for a bank with such a high profile to decide to cease any involvement and investment in companies which produce these brutal, outlawed bombs.

“But we are glad that they have decided to make this commitment and hope to work with them, and the UK government, on drawing up a binding code of conduct.

“It just goes to show that the biggest of businesses have to listen when you make enough noise.”

An extract from the initial response issued by RBS to enquiries by Amnesty supporters and concerned RBS customers:

We do not invest in companies who produce cluster munitions and do not recognise the claims made in the IKV Pax Christie report. This is a serious issue and we have engaged with the writers of the report to understand these allegations.

An extract from the response issued by RBS yesterday:

"After discussions with various NGO groups we have identified some defence sector clients whose activities could be considered to be outside the spirit of the Convention. As a result, we will be suspending all further services to any client where we cannot be certain that they are in compliance with our policy. We will seek to work with both the UK Government and NGO groups to create clarity on this issue, and encourage other banks to do the same."


Members of the media: please feel free to download and use our campaign video  (displayed above).

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