Asbestos industry takes a big hit in Asia

Jun 29, 2021

After many years of campaigning, the global ban asbestos campaign has chalked up a significant win as the asbestos industry is forced to take a big hit in Asia. The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has amended its Environmental and Social Framework to exclude asbestos containing materials from AIIB-financed projects.  


Asbestos ban campaign chalks up significant win

In big news for the global ban asbestos campaign, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has moved to ban asbestos containing materials being used in its USD3.3 billion annual infrastructure supported investment projects across Asia.

The campaign to eliminate asbestos related diseases by global and national trade unions asbestos ban groups and victims has been targeting multilateral banks for many years including the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and AIIB as well as the World Bank Group. The campaign has called on them to take action to prohibit the use of chrysotile asbestos containing products and thereby eliminate the exposure risk caused by bonded asbestos products to workers and consumers as these products age, decay or are disturbed. Up until now, asbestos fibre has been banned. However, materials containing less than 20% asbestos fibre were allowed by the AIIB. This meant nearly all building materials containing asbestos were still able to be used.

AIIB’s Asbestos Materials Exclusion Policy

The AIIB has now published the updated exclusion policy within its revised Environmental and Social Framework which now includes the “Production of, trade in, or use of asbestos fibres, whether or not bonded”. The updated policy allows some exemptions to the new policy, in special circumstances and for purposes of transitioning to alternative products only. The full list can be found  at AIIB-Revised-Environmental-and-Social-Framework-ESF-May-2021-final.pdf, pages 77-78.

Who is the AIIB?

The AIIB is a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. It was set up in 2016 and is based in China. They have a lending capacity of over $20 Billion USD. Australia is one of the 103 members of the bank and Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg sits on the Board of Governors. Australia has just over $5 Billion AUD in capital subscription and 3.5% of the votes. More…

Next target: The Asian Development Bank

The Asbestos Not Here Not Anywhere campaign is seeking urgent updates from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) who is also currently reviewing its own Safeguards Policy.   

APHEDA’s Asbestos Ban Campaign Coordinator, Phillip Hazelton, says:  

‘With all we know of this deadly fibre and all the safer quality alternatives now available, in the 21st century workers and consumers in Asia and other parts of the world should not still be being exposed to asbestos from newly manufactured products. This is an overdue but an important step by the AIIB. We call on all multilateral investment banks and international financial institutions to quickly do the same and exclude asbestos containing materials from any investments they support’

Apolinar Z. Tolentino, Jr., BWI Asia Pacific Regional Representative:

‘The Global Ban Asbestos movement’s sustained lobby to the Multilateral Development Banks gained another victory with the AIIB decision to exclude use of asbestos containing products in its revised Environmental and Social Framework Safeguard Policy. We expect the ADB to follow suit to this long awaited policy to ensure that working families and their communities are not exposed to this highly dangerous industrial substance’.

Join the Campaign to Ban Asbestos

We are building a movement of people in Australia to join with unionists and campaigners across South East Asia to support their struggle to ban asbestos and eliminate asbestos-related diseases. We want to secure an asbestos-free future because as long as asbestos is being used anywhere, it remains a risk everywhere.

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