The power of corporate campaigning

Consumer pressure on financial institutions has put the future of the Adani coal mine in doubt.

The campaign to stop the Adani coal mine has been led by the “people power” of hundreds of small groups around the country, including groups led by nurses, Stop Adani campaigner Isaac Astill told NSWNMA annual conference.

While Adani has now cleared the environmental and development approvals it needs to go ahead, the Stop Adani campaign has managed to force potential financial backers, such as the Commonwealth Bank and major Chinese banks, to withdraw their support from the mine.

“In early 2017, Adani really began to ramp up their efforts on their coal mine, and people were furious,” Astill said. The Stop Adani campaign wrote to the Commonwealth Bank, which had already loaned the Adani corporation hundreds of millions of dollars, asking them to rule out backing Adani’s new mine.

“Commbank replied and said no,” said Astill. “At the time Commbank was the biggest corporation in Australia. It meant we were going to need a lot of power to move the biggest corporation in Australia.

“The Stop Adani campaign put out calls for people to form local groups and to adopt local Commonwealth Bank branches that they would put pressure on.”

The campaign saw 160 local groups formed across the nation, with groups in most regional and major centres. The Stop Adani campaign is a decentralised one: the logo is available in open source, and organisers didn’t tell groups what actions to take. Instead they asked people to be as “creative as possible” while keeping their actions “non-violent and respectful”.

Local groups held sit-ins at Commonwealth branches, with one group holding a “board games” day. Other groups held sit-ins at head offices, embarrassing the bank in front of large clients. Customers lined up in banks to let tellers know they were leaving the bank because of its refusal to rule out supporting Adani. Other customers took their credit cards and cut them up in front of their Commonwealth bank and posted photos.

A fair transition that creates new jobs needed

“Doctors and nurses came out against the mine, holding protests because coal fuels climate change, which fuels dangerous impacts on health like heatwaves. Last summer there were reports of medical centres … overflowing from patients suffering from overheating, and air cons conked out because they couldn’t deal with the heat.”

As the media storm around the mine grew, the bank’s clients were unimpressed, shareholders were angry, customers were leaving and “more and more staff were taking a side and raising their concerns internally,” says Astill.

“Two thirds of Australians say they are opposed to the coal mine.”

This groundswell of public opposition to the mine, along with the pressure this grassroots movement placed on the bank, eventually forced it to pledge not to provide financial support for the mine.

“We managed to push what was the biggest corporation in Australia … to rule out ever investing in Adani’s coal mine.”

Banks in China have also bowed to pressure not to support the mine, Astill said. The Chinese embassy in Australia has now confirmed Chinese money won’t fund the mine.

The campaign is now pressuring other companies associated with Adani to pledge not to work with the corporation.

“One by one we have been pushing for companies to rule out working with Adani.”

The campaign is currently focusing its lobbying efforts on GHD, the engineering consultancy now working for Adani.

The Stop Adani campaign is conscious of the need to transition to a sustainable future in a way that doesn’t leave behind people in coal-mining communities, Astill said.

“Both parties need to come up with a plan to move beyond coal in a way that leaves no one behind. We need to build towards broader climate demands and a 
fair transition.”

The fight to stop Australia’s biggest coal mine is far from over, says Astill.

“The coal industry also truly does know their days are numbered… that if they can get Adani over the line, it will give the coal industry a new lease of life. And vice versa: if the Adani coal mine is defeated it really will spell the end of new coal mines in Australia.”

How you can help Stop Adani

Go to the Stop Adani website and send GHD a letter:

Join one of the local groups or events to Stop Adani:

Pass union motions against the mine at your local branch

Support the school strikers on 20 September in the Domain: turn out your members at a local level and come in your NSWNMA scrubs as a sign that nurses and midwives have got their back.