Vigeo Eiris: two years without answer on support to occupation
Article image

The UK-French company Vigeo Eiris certified and defended a Moroccan-Saudi energy project in occupied Western Sahara. WSRW calls on the board to engage on the matter.

Published 27 November 18

In November 2016 - two years ago - Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) first wrote to the company Vigeo Eiris to enquire whether it could be correct that it had certified the bonds for a Moroccan-Saudi energy project in Western Sahara. 

It turned out that Vigeo Eiris not only confirmed the activity, but also defended the operation. 

Vigeo Eiris never responded, however, to follow-up emails relating to its interpretations of international law, its policies on occupations, or its practices of due diligence. 

To Business and Human Rights Resource Center, however, Vigeo Eiris in various ways defended the Moroccan occupation of the territory, putting in question whether the territory is occupied at all, and downplaying the Saharawi people's right to self-determination. Its references to the territory are not in line with United Nations' terminology (which calls it 'Western Sahara') - instead Vigeo Eiris refers to it by Moroccan terms. Its website shows maps which are not in line with the UN. It does not respond to questions about whether it performs prior human rights due diligence. 

Read our correspondence with Vigeo Eiris and all about the controversy here. 

Marking two years of waiting for a response to basic questions on Vigeo Eiris' policies and practices, WSRW today contacted the board members of the company: Amundi Asset Management, Axa, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, Eiris Foundation, Generali Vie, Natixis, Solactive, Vyv Invest

The case of Vigeo Eiris' board members Axa and Eiris Foundation are particularly peculiar. On 18 October 2018, on the basis of article 461-26 of the French penal code: the crime of colonisation, the representation of the people of Western Sahara lodged a complaint against Axa and 5 other groups with the State Prosecutor at the High Court in Paris. Axa has offices in the occupied territory. 

f83avigeoeiris20162018_400.jpg

During 2018, Vigeo Eiris altered the map on the front page of its website by adding Sweden, where it had opened an office. But it did not remove Western Sahara, as WSRW has previously requested. WSRW today asked the board about whether international law, policies on business on occupied lands or human rights due diligence has been a subject at the Vigeo Eiris board meetings.The Eiris Foundation, on the other hand, is running a database on companies with a presence in occupied Palestine and Crimea, and has a large competence on how to advise companies relating to operations on occupied land. In addition to being on the board of Vigeo Eiris, the Eiris Foundation is also a shareholder of the company, and the two firms have some overlapping staff. 

Issues that Vigeo Eiris have not wished to clarify, but that WSRW today asked the Vigeo Eiris board about: 
 

  • Does Vigeo Eiris have a policy on occupations?
     
  • Why does Vigeo Eiris not apply UN terminology to the territory?
     
  • Why does Vigeo Eiris not apply UN maps on the front page of www.vigeo-eiris.com
     
  • Whether it agrees with Eiris Foundation on how to define an occupation.
     
  • Whether the company should seek independent external advice on due diligence before facilitating projects on occupied land.
     
  • Whether the board expects the company's management to respond to letters from civil society. 

    Earlier in 2018, the UN Global Compact made Vigeo Eiris rectify its annual Communication of Progress report to UNGC, as the original version had falsely claimed that UNGC found the controversial operations to be in order. 

Sneak peek on ENGIE's position

For a little while, ENGIE had published on its website hints about who it had actually "consulted" when doing business in occupied Western Sahara.

27 November 18

HeidelbergCement takes side in the conflict

The German building materials giant sides with Morocco in the Western Sahara conflict, avoiding any questions on its own legal obligations in the occupied territory.

27 November 18

Telecom cables laid in occupied waters

The French company Alcatel Submarine Networks SpA, partially owned by Nokia, has laid telecom cables in occupied Western Sahara. 

27 November 18

Report reveals clients of Western Sahara’s conflict mineral

India and New Zealand stand out as the main importers of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara, in WSRW’s newest annual report on the controversial trade. 

27 November 18