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Nordic roundup: Norway SWF, Dakota pipeline, DNB, JØP/DIP, PBU

The Council on Ethics for Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) is meeting a group of indigenous women from the US today to talk about its investments in the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Eli Ane Lund, head of the Council on Ethics’ secretariat, confirmed that the meeting was taking place this afternoon in Oslo. The council assesses whether the fund’s investments tally with its ethical guidelines.

Vibeke Larsen, the president of the Sami Parliament in Norway – which has been supporting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the US in its opposition to the construction and operation of the pipeline – will join the US delegation at the bilateral meeting, a parliament spokesman said.

The GPFG has around €1.2bn invested in five companies behind the pipeline project, in the form of equities and corporate bonds, according to its published investments.

Major Norwegian bank DNB, which has also come under pressure from the Sami Parliament and other stakeholders over the pipeline issue, announced yesterday that it had agreed to sell its share of the Dakota Access Pipeline loan.

The decision to divest was made after reviewing various options for its involvement in the project financing, the bank said.

Harald Serck-Hanssen, group executive vice president and head of large corporates and international at DNB, said: “By selling our stake, we wish to signal how important it is that the affected indigenous population is involved and that their opinions are heard in these types of projects.”

Although the project parties had made attempts at consultation, the outcome of the process suggested that these had been inadequate, he said. 

The bank’s arm DNB Asset Management sold its mutual fund investments in the companies behind the pipeline back in November 2016.

Danish funds sign up to PRI

In other news, Danish professional pension funds JØP and DIP – which cover lawyers and economists (JØP) and engineers (DIP) – have signed up to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

The funds said the move was part of their continued work on responsible investing.

“JØP has worked on responsibility in our investments for many years, and through our membership of the PRI  we look forward to being able to take part in working groups and networks under the auspices of the PRI, as well as having access to information about responsible investments from PRI,” the fund said.

Other Danish funds had previously criticised the PRI’s approach, quitting the organisation in 2013. Last year, ATP, PFA, PKA, and Sampension all rejoined, but Industriens and PensionDanmark have yet to return.

Education fund strengthens ethical approach

Meanwhile, the Danish pension fund for education practitioners, Pædagogernes Pension (PBU), said it strengthened its focus on ethics and responsibility in 2016.

The fund said: “As an active owner, Pædagogernes Pension has voted for shareholder resolutions which support positive development for people, society and [the] environment.”

In 2016, the fund ruled that its employees should under no circumstances accept gifts from suppliers or external investment firms.

In its annual report, the pension fund said the return on market-rate pensions rose to 8.4% in 2016, up from 3.7% in 2015. 

Claus Omann Jensen, chairman of the pension fund, said the annual results showed that the change of chief executive that took place during the summer had gone very well.

“It has not been an easy year to operate in the pensions market, and at the same time we changed captains in the middle of a storm, so to speak,” he said.

Leif Brask-Rasmussen, PBU’s chief executive for more than 25 years, retired in August 2016 and was replaced by Sune Schackenfeldt.

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