Ethical Consumer researches JCB in support of Palestine Action launch

A new UK network is creating collective, national campaigns to challenge corporate power. Ethical Consumer has published research on JCB - the target of its first campaign - in support of the launch.

Palestine Action (PA) was launched on 30 July 2020 to connect Palestine solidarity groups across the UK.

The network will be run by its members - made up of activist groups and individuals across the UK. PA says that anyone is welcome to join and just needs to share its key objective of holding corporations that profit from Israeli crimes against Palestinians to account. The organisation will plan and coordinate national campaigns for the UK.

So far PA has announced two campaign targets: equipment manufacturer JCB and arms company Elbit Systems. To mark the launch and show support for activists working to challenge corporate power, Ethical Consumer has researched and rated JCB, published on our website.

We’ve removed the paywall, too, so anyone can access JCB’s full company profile. Read the highlights below.

How ethical is JCB?

Human rights in Palestine

image: JCB demolitions palestine action for palestine corporate power rubble
Image credit to Shoal Collective

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement states that JCB is complicit in human rights violations, including home demolitions and ethnic cleansing. JCB sells bulldozers to the Israeli state, which are reported to be used during the demolition of Palestinian’s homes. The BDS National Committee has called for the “naming and shaming” of JCB and other implicated corporations.

In December 2019, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) filed a complaint against JCB to the OECD. It stated that the company was involved in human rights breaches in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The report was said to identify 89 demolished homes, resulting in the displacement of 484 individuals. A school and water tanks were also said to have been demolished. The report called for JCB to immediately suspend the supply of products to Comasco (an Israeli company and exclusive dealer of JCB products in Israel).

Human rights organisations have condemned JCB’s involvement in illegal Israeli settlements, including Amnesty International. 

Kate Allen, director fo the organisation, says,

“it’s finally time for JCB [...] to stop profiting from crimes against the Palestinian people”.]

Human rights globally

In addition to Israel, JCB has operations in several other countries Ethical Consumer considered to have Oppressive Regimes. These include Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Iraq, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. 

JCB has a track record for supplying armed forces according to its website. It claims to have supplied over 50 different armed forces with more than 3,500 JCB machines since 1984.

JCB has supplied over 50 different armed forces with more than 3,500 machines.

In July 2020, JCB secured a contract to supply a fleet of specialized high speed excavators in a deal worth up to £217m to the US Army and US Marine Corps. The armoured vehicles are designed to keep up with a military convoy.

In an interview with Scroll.in, a family in Jharkhan, India also stated that their home was "completely flattened" by JCB machinery, during an unlawful demolition. The family faced accusations of sedition by the Indian state for participating in the Pathalgadi movement, which Huffington Post India has described as a "movement against the government for their land rights” and a "popular indigenous tribal movement". 

image: bamford headshot suit tie conservative donations political lobbying
More than £10m has flowed into Tory coffers from JCB” since 2010.

Anti-social Finance

The ultimate parent company of JCB is ‘Transmissions and engineering Netherlands BV’. The company is registered in the Netherlands and was found to be opaque about its operations, with its accounts only obtainable from the Chamber of Commerce in Rotterdam. 

The Netherlands is on Ethical Consumer’s tax haven list and as such, JCB receives Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies. 

Ethical Consumer found that JCB also had six subsidiaries in jurisdictions considered to be tax havens, located in Singapore, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Delaware, and Switzerland. 

A London Economic article published in July 2020 criticised how companies registered offshore were accessing government bailouts during coronavirus. It stated, "Machine manufacturer JCB – whose parent company is located in the Netherlands – received a £600 million bailout." 

Meanwhile, company directors at JCB have received excessive pay in recent years. In 2018 the highest paid director of J.C.B. Service’s received £2.9m, excluding pension contributions. 
 

Largest donor for the Conservative Party

JCB director Anthony Bamford is a vocal supporter of the Conservative Party. A BBC article stated in February 2020 that JCB was the largest source of money over the decade for the Conservative Party. It said "More than £10m has flowed into Tory coffers from JCB” since 2010.

The company Director’s Report stated that £1m was donated to the Conservative Party in 2018.

Workers’ Rights

While its murky approach to finances has worked out favourably for the Conservative Party and company directors, JCB has been criticised for its approach to workers’ rights.

Unite the Union condemned JCB in May 2020 for announcing redundancies of workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said:

“JCB is preparing to throw 1,500 workers under the bus just as the government asks employers to pay their fair share towards protecting jobs and keeping the heads of loyal workers above water."

The company received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for Supply Chain Management, providing little information about its approach.
 

Targeting complicit companies

image: busy road campaign busstop palestine poster ethical consumer corporate power elbit systems

Palestine Action plans to target a growing number of companies complicit in Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians over the coming months. Elbit Systems - the other focus for its current campaign - is Israel’s largest privately-owned arms company.

Elbit’s biggest single customer is the Israeli Ministry of Defence. About 85% of drones used by the Israeli military are manufactured by the company. It has four factories in the UK – in Oldham, Tamworth, Kent and Shenstone. 

Find out more on the Palestine Action website.

Palestine Action follows the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) principles. The BDS call was made by Palestinian civil society in 2006 to the international community, urging action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. Ethical Consumer has officially supported the BDS movement since June 2014.

Visit our company profile page to see our full rating of JCB.

Visit PA’s website to see its research on JCB and Elbit Systems companies.

Take action - join the campaign now.

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