US retailer Wal-Mart is being excluded from the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global’s investment universe because of alleged serious and systemic human rights violations.
The fund has now divested its around NOK2.5bn (€321.7m) holding in the company, in line with recommendations from the fund’s Ethics Council.
In November last year the council said there was an “extensive body of material” of the Arkansas-based company’s alleged abuses. These included child labour, dangerous working conditions, unpaid overtime, sexual discrimination, lack of union recognition and others.
The report covered the retailer’s operations in the US and Canada, and at its suppliers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Lesotho, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Malawi, Madagascar, Swaziland, Bangladesh, China and Indonesia.
The ministry says the fund would “incur an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious or systematic violations of human rights by maintaining its investments in the company”.
“What makes this case special is the sum total of ethical norm violations, both in the company’s own business operations and in the supplier chain,” the Council continued.
“It appears to be a systematic and planned practice on the part of the company to hover at, or cross, the bounds of what are accepted norms for the work environment.
“Many of the violations are serious, most appear to be systematic, and altogether they form a picture of a company whose overall activity displays a lack of willingness to countervail violations of norms in its business operations.” The ministry said the company did not respond to a September 14 letter seeking comment on allegations of human rights abuse. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman declined to comment.
Wal-Mart has 10 ‘Guiding Ethical Principles’, according to its web site. “These principles are designed to assist our Associates and Suppliers with making the right decision and doing the right thing.”
Mining firm Freeport is also being excluded by the fund over environmental damage.
“The exclusions reflect our refusal to contribute to serious, systematic or gross violations of ethical norms in these areas through our investments in the Government Pension Fund – Global,” said Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen.