Home > Coal and coup; urgent review of Adani’s inclusion on Dow Jones Sustainability Index demanded

Coal and coup; urgent review of Adani’s inclusion on Dow Jones Sustainability Index demanded

17 March 2021

18 March 2021

UPDATE: (19/03/21) Market Forces has received confirmation that S&P Global will conduct a review into Adani Ports’ status in its Dow Jones Sustainability Index. We call on S&P to take the evidence we have presented seriously and to ensure that any company involved in a massive thermal coal mining expansion or linked to businesses owned by the Myanmar military is unable to greenwash its reputation by being listed on a “sustainability” or “ethical” index.

With DJSI’s confirmation that they will review Adani Ports’ status, we have paused our email action. Thank you to all those who have already emailed DJSI and we’ll be in touch as the issue develops.

Thirty seven human rights and climate groups representing millions of people from around the world have called on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) to immediately review Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone’s (Adani Ports) inclusion in its influential index. The signatories make the case that Adani Ports and the entire Adani Group must be held accountable for its serious environmental, climatic and social impacts. 

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index is one of the most influential “ESG” (environment, social, governance) indices in the world. Being included in the renowned DJSI list is highly sought after by companies as it can increase appetite from investors. 

Adani Ports was quick to update investors when it was added to the DJSI for the first time late last year, the ranking resulting in the company’s stock price jumping by at least 7%. With increasing appetite for sustainable investments, Adani has been working hard to  green-wash and blue-wash itself onto the DJSI by joining the UN’s Global Compact and setting a carbon neutrality goal. The call for DJSI to immediately review Adani Ports’ inclusion in its index  is due to the need for investors to have confidence that ESG indices take into account the full picture of a company’s activities and the impacts they cause. 

The case for review outlines three areas where Adani Ports undermines ESG principles requiring an immediate review of its inclusion:

  1. Adani Ports’ commercial relationship with a company owned by Myanmar’s military, an organisation guilty of human rights abuses and credibly accused of genocide;
  2. Adani Ports’ critical role in the Carmichael coal project, via its ownership of the Bowen Rail company, facilitates the opening up of the Galilee thermal coal basin, in the midst of the climate crisis; and
  3. Many of Adani Ports’ operations in India have a history of environmental destruction, negatively impacting ecology and local livelihoods. 

Read the full letter and case to the DJSI here.

Adani Ports’ green and blue wash

Adani Ports has been making concerted efforts to improve its reputation by becoming a signatory to the UN Global Compact, the first Indian port operator to join the Science Based Targets Initiative and applying for recognition from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and DJSI. Signatories to the case to the DJSI argue that Adani Ports’ recent attempts for ESG recognition should not outweigh the significant environmental damage caused by the company, its business dealings with a Myanmar military owned company and being the company that will haul Carmichael coal. 

In business with the Myanmar military

Human rights groups Justice For Myanmar (JFM) and the Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) have condemned Adani Ports’ business relationship with Myanmar’s military, via the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), which is credibly accused of crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses, including war crimes and genocide against ethnic and religious minorities. Both these groups have signed-on to the case presented to the DJSI regarding Adani Ports. 

Yadanar Maung, JFM spokesperson, said “Adani Ports & SEZ have been put on notice that their business in Myanmar finances genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet they have failed to act and continue to stand by the brutal and corrupt military generals they’re in business with, instead of the Myanmar people. We say Adani Ports’ blatant disregard for human rights is unsustainable and call for its inclusion on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index to be immediately reviewed.”

Despite the coup and subsequent deadly repression of peaceful protesters by the Myanmar military, Adani Ports continues its work building a port in Yangon on military land. Meanwhile, other major companies, such as Woodside and Kirin have announced they are ending business activities in Myanmar. 

Adani Ports’ actions have destroyed local ecosystems and will turbo-charge global warming

Adani Ports’ operations in India have a long history of ecosystem destruction, with huge negative impacts on local biodiversity, industries and communities (see reports spanning from 2013 to 2020 for Mundra, Goa, Hazira, Vizhinjam and Kattupalli ports). Reports of Adani Ports’ environmental destruction and social impacts range from illegal clearing of large areas of critical ecosystems, to displacing hundreds of families, to threatening whole villages’ water, food and water supply.

Most recently, via subsidiary Bowen Rail Company, Adani Ports  is setting up and will operate the system to haul coal from the Carmichael mine to Adani’s Abbot Point port.  If the Adani Carmichael project is constructed and paves the way for more Galilee Basin mines, around 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution would be produced each year from the combustion of Galilee Basin coal, which is 1.3 times Australia’s total annual emissions. It has been estimated that burning all of the coal in the Galilee Basin would produce a total of 20-30 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions (GtCO2), which is 5-7% of the entire remaining carbon budget for the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree limit (420 GtCO2).

Adani Ports has demonstrated disregard for ecosystems and communities in India and willingness to open up a massive new source of thermal coal, violating its commitment to the UN Global Compact and undermining the Paris Agreement. At the very least, this evidence constitutes the need for an urgent review of the company’s inclusion in the DJSI.  

Investors are increasingly concerned about exposure to Adani’s controversial mega-mine

The call for DJSI to review Adani Ports’ inclusion comes after increasing backlash from investors that don’t want to become associated with the controversial Carmichael mine. The world’s largest asset managers, including BlackRock, Norges Bank, Amundi, AXA and Deutsche Bank, have spoken out against the State Bank of India’s rumored loan to the project. Over 90 major companies covering banking, insurance, engineering and investment have ruled out having anything to do with Adani Carmichael.

DJSI has a responsibility to its clients and the investment community to properly assess a company’s ESG values and actions. Failure to do so opens up investors to the risks of exposure to companies that do not uphold widely accepted social and sustainability behaviours. With the evidence presented to DJSI, it must immediately review the status of Adani Ports in order to maintain its credibility. 

Help amplify the signatories’ call for an immediate review by emailing and tweeting the DJSI now. 

The entire Adani Group must be held accountable

The Adani Group’s history of transferring capital and ownership of subsidiaries between its complex web of companies means the entire group must be held responsible for unsustainable and antisocial practices while it continues to undertake them. In the case of the Carmichael mine it has been reported that funding will come from sources within the Adani Group, extending our concerns related to this project to all other Adani companies. 

Additionally, there is a chance that Adani Ports may either sell Bowen Rail Company to another owner, or transfer ownership of the company to another part of the conglomerate. In both cases, Adani Ports should still be accountable for the impacts of Bowen Rail Company and the Carmichael project which partly through its efforts is being built, and will operate with the coal haulage infrastructure it has set up. Adani Ports should not be permitted to absolve itself of responsibility for its roles and activities as described in the case presented to DJSI by simply divesting itself of controversial entities, while those entities’ destructive practises continue within the Adani Group.