Aug 06, 2021 ESG

From victims to ecological defenders

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an opportunity to reflect on how to help indigenous communities become even stronger guardians of biodiversity, nature and the world’s climate.

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August 9 is Indigenous Peoples' Day.[1]

This refers to descendants of those who lived in a specific geographical area before its colonization and who have largely retained their own social, economic, cultural and political practices. Hopefully, the day will raise awareness and lead to change regarding the issues facing the close to 500 million indigenous people in 90 different countries.

Our Chart of the Week shows how despite their small population, indigenous peoples have high levels of poverty, but at the same time they also play an essential role in safeguarding ecosystems.

The sectors likely to impact indigenous groups include mining, oil and gas, pipelines and transmission lines, large-scale construction, forestry, pharma and biotechnology. A few companies are trying to minimize adverse impacts on indigenous people, though that remains the exception.[2] Conflicts between business interests and indigenous peoples are common, the U.S. Dakota Access Pipeline being a good example.[3] The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples grants these communities a specific right to free, prior and informed consent to such projects, in principle allowing them to withdraw their consent at any stage of a development.[4]

Good news is that the DWS-CREATE Survey found that investors are increasingly focusing on social issues: 63% of asset owners surveyed indicated that they will select their managers based on their efforts to address social issues. Social issues can include a company's employees, local communities, suppliers and stakeholders. For different companies, indigenous people may be a part of all of these groups.

We believe that stronger participation of the indigenous peoples in the formal economy and sharing economic development profits can create its own benefits. As one expert recently put it, "The future of our planet lies in indigenous ways of living on the earth."[5] The indigenous peoples in Australia, Brazil and Namibia are just a few examples of how communities can manage important ecosystems better than with otherwise common business management practices.[6] Therefore, enabling a better future for indigenous peoples is essential to safeguard our climate and biodiversity.

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Each year Earth Overshoot Day marks that date when our demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. In 2021, it falls on July 29.

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2. CDC Group


4. UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, August 2018

5. Jon Waterhouse, Indigenous Peoples Scholar at the Oregon Health and Science University, quoted in National Geographic, November 2018.

6. Corrigan et al. Sept 2018 Biological Conservation.

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