Unions and pressure groups have called for greater ethical responsibility from the Government Pension Fund of Norway, the world’s largest sovereign wealth investor.
The $760 billion oil fund has already strengthened its ethical stance by refusing to invest in companies such as Walmart, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Walmart has often been criticised by workers and trade unions over human rights issues, while the latter two are involved in the production of defence aircrafts.
In addition, it cut out tobacco firms and manufacturers of bombs and nuclear weapons from its portfolio, and said it would focus on six areas of environmental, social and governance (ESG) ownership, including children’s rights and water management.
However, critics have argued that the fund should do more, especially considering its ever-expanding size.
“I don’t think the fund has kept up to speed. You have a responsibility to be a responsible investor. Therefore, human rights need to have a bigger focus”, Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union told the fund’s representatives at a recent conference.
The fund’s reliance on oil – much of its assets come from surplus wealth created by the Norwegian petroleum sector – has also generated criticism.
The fund came under fire in May, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) complained about its lack of strategy to deal with violations of human rights by companies in which it invests.
The controversy revolved around the Indian mining firm Posco, whose operations were said to have displaced some 20,000 people from their homes. The fund refused to answer questions from Norway’s OECD contact point, claiming that its ethical guidelines “[did] not apply to minority shareholders”.
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