Norway wealth managers raise the importance of respect for human rights
In an important development in the investment world, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has announced a new initiative in which it details the human rights expectations of the companies within its investment portfolio.
The move is an important addition to the investment criteria of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the €791bn Norwegian Government Pension Fund. NBIM invests in over 8000 companies comprising 2% of global work markets. The policy expects companies to adopt practices based on internationally-recognised human rights standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Global Compact.
The move is welcomed by UNI Global Union and marks the culmination of a three-year engagement by UNI, Norwegian trade unions and NGOs who contributed to a strategic review of investment policies at NBIM. This pressure culminated with a call for a stronger focus on workers’ rights in fund investment activity.
“We are delighted to see that the pressure has paid off and that UNI has been able to play a role in convincing the NBIM to move in this direction,” UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings said. “Credit must go to our Norwegian affiliates who weighed-in on the issues and to the Norwegian parliament, which insisted that NBIM addresses human rights.”
The move follows a complaint against NBIM under the OECD Guidelines for investing in companies allegedly responsible for workers’ rights abuses, and for its failure to make respect for human rights an “expectation” of companies. Following a hard-hitting report from the Norwegian OECD Contact Point, UNI Global Union was invited to contribute to the strategic review of the approach of the fund with respect to including a human rights dimension in their investment policy and has been consistently in contact with them for more direct engagement with their portfolio companies on labour rights.
In May 2015, UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings addressed a hearing at the Norwegian parliament and pushed strongly for a human rights dimension to be central to the Fund’s responsible investment policy.
UNI looks forward to continuing its engagement with NBIM, Jennings said. Millions of workers work for companies where NBIM has a shareholding and UNI can contribute its experience of how these companies are acting in compliance with human rights expectations.
“We will talk to Norges Bank about developing a process to raise concerns about companies that violate the international standards by which they should operate,” Jennings said. “We are looking forward to continuing our constructive relationship because they have demonstrated how firm they can be with their work to eradicate child labour from the fund’s portfolio and now we hope to give the same attention to the right to organise.”