August 14, 2017 / 10:32 AM / 2 years ago

Norway's $975-billion wealth fund should improve ethical stance: NGO report

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s $975-billion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, should be more forceful in promoting its ethical agenda and influencing the thousands of companies it invests in, a report commissioned by non-governmental organizations said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: People go about their day near Norway's central bank building in Oslo, Norway May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

The fund, which invests the proceeds of Norway’s oil and gas production for future generations, already has rules that stipulate, for example, that it cannot invest in firms that produce landmines or nuclear weapons, or derive more than 30 percent of their turnover from coal.

But the study by the Re-Define think tank said it could do much more.

“(The fund should) apply its expectations documents on human rights, children’s rights, climate change, water management and tax and transparency to itself, just as it expects BlackRock, as well as many other asset managers it holds significant stakes in, to follow,” it said.

In response, a spokesman for the fund’s management, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), said it was open to dialogue on ethical standards and had already divested from 210 companies when it estimated there were “elevated long-term risks” on environmental, social or governance considerations.

The report, which was commissioned by a group of nine NGOs including Amnesty International and Save the Children, said the fund should team up with other investors to address social, environmental and governance challenges.

“It should immediately join the investor coalitions that already exist on enhancing disclosures of labor policy, fighting the excessive use of antibiotics, and acting against aggressive tax planning,” the report said.

On assessing the risk that climate change could pose to its portfolio, NBIM said that in 2016 it had calculated the carbon footprint of its bond portfolio for the first time, and for the third year in a row for equities.

Companies in which the fund owns stakes are responsible for emitting 90 to 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or about twice what Norway emits per year, its CEO Yngve Slyngstad said in May.

He told Reuters in June the fund was also asking the banks it was invested to disclose how their lending contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Toby Chopra

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