THE HAGUE: The Netherlands’ third-largest bank ABN Amro said Wednesday that it is ratcheting up its battle against smoking and will no longer extend credit to clients in the tobacco industry.
The Amsterdam-based bank’s decision came as it announced a new partnership with the national Heart Foundation in the fight against smoking, which kills some 20,000 people every year in the country of 17 million, according to a recent study.
“Our core value is that everybody has a right to be healthy,” said Marianne Verhaar, the bank’s director of relationship management for institutions and charitable organisations.
“The core activity of those in the tobacco industry is not compatable with our core values,” she told AFP.
“Therefore we have drawn up a moratorium when it comes to extending credit to tobacco producers.”
The move also stops any new investment in the tobacco industry and is the first by a major bank in The Netherlands, the Trouw newspaper reported.
“The move could have a big impact. It means that other banks and investment funds would also have to take a stand,” the paper said.
Existing contracts with tobacco industry clients will be respected, but will not be renewed and no new contracts will be signed, an ABM Amro official told the daily.
Verhaar said ABN Amro was planning to lobby others in the Dutch financial sector to follow its lead.
The bank, which has more than six million clients worldwide, decided to change its tobacco policy around the end of April, she said.
Its new partnership with the Heart Foundation includes looking at ways to integrate a payment-sharing app with the foundation’s fund-raising activities.
A recent study by the Amsterdam-based SEO Economic Research company estimated the cost of smoking to Dutch society at around 2,000 euros ($2,200) per person per year.
The World Health Organisation attributes more than seven million deaths world-wide to tobacco use every year.