Coal and coup: Dow Jones Sustainability Index urged to urgently review Adani Ports status

March 18, 2021

Burmese translation here.

Just months after Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (Adani Ports) debuted on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), environment and human rights groups representing millions of people from the USA, Europe, Myanmar and Australia, have formally made the case that the company should have its inclusion on the index reviewed immediately.

The case for review is focused on three areas. First is Adani Ports’ business partnership with the Myanmar Economic Corporation, a Myanmar military-owned company. Second is Adani Ports’ involvement, via the Bowen Rail Company, in the controversial Carmichael thermal coal mega-project, which will open up an unmined thermal coal basin in Australia, and third is the ecological damage present at several Adani Ports sites in India.

According to the DJSI methodology, “companies may be deleted from the Index between annual reviews, if, through the Media & Stakeholder Analysis (MSA) component of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), or by other means, the Index Committee determines that a company is no longer behaving in a matter [sic] that is consistent with the Corporate Governance Compliance.”

Volkswagen was removed from the DJSI in 2015, after the company was found to have cheated on emissions tests.

Pablo Brait of Market Forces, one of the groups which put the case together, said “the evidence we have presented is damning. The S&P-owned Dow Jones Sustainability Index  must uphold the credibility of its index by reviewing Adani Ports’ inclusion.”

“Adani Ports has made clear moves to greenwash its reputation by recently signing on to the UN Global Compact and setting a carbon neutrality goal. However, its actions tell a very different story. Helping to get a massive new thermal coal mine operational in the midst of the climate crisis is the opposite of sustainable. Investors need to have confidence that ESG indices take into account the full picture of a company’s activities and the impacts they cause. The signatories to this case believe DJSI has not properly accounted for Adani Ports’ links to thermal coal mining expansion and the devastating ecological damage found at some of its port sites,” Mr Brait said.

Yadanar Maung, Justice For Myanmar spokesperson, which is a signatory to the case, 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.”

There is evidence that a major backlash to Adani Ports has begun in the finance sector. In January 2021 it was reported that Deutsche Bank withdrew from an Adani Ports bond issue due to “port-related environment concerns which are in conflict with sustainability goals of the bank”.

News of Adani Ports’ inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index coincided with its stocks jumping 7%.

“We hope that this serves as a wake up call not only for DJSI and its owner S&P Global, but for the Adani Group too. While we want to see S&P ensures the integrity of its indices, we’d much rather companies like Adani just ceased their destructive and unsustainable activities.” Mr Brait concluded.