Norway Fund Ethics Group to Make Speedier Divestment Decisions

  • Council sends proposals to central bank instead of government
  • Bank examining `several' recommendations, head of council says

With Norwegian politicians out of the way, the ethics watchdog of the nation’s $820 billion wealth fund predicts it can speed up recommendations for divestments.

Norway’s Council on Ethics last year was freed to deliver proposals for exclusions directly to the oil fund, allowing the investor to make a final decision. It previously submitted recommendations to the Finance Ministry, leaving the government to call the shots.

“Now that the politicians are out of the loop we are trying to be more effective, speed up, or reduce the time from when we engage with a company to when we actually make a recommendation,” said Johan H. Andresen, chairman of the council.

The investor, which holds 1.3 percent of global stocks, takes into account ethical rules encompassing human rights, some weapons production, the environment and tobacco. It has excluded more than 60 companies after recommendations from the council.

The most recent were divestments from companies including Daewoo International Corp. and Posco because of their involvement in palm oil production.

The central bank’s board, which oversees the fund, is looking at “several” recommendations right now, Andresen said. The council is also zeroing in on companies in textile manufacturing for breaching its standards, choosing about “two handfuls” of companies from a study of about 400 to concentrate on, he said.

“Regardless what is decided, our recommendation will be made public,” Andresen said. “That puts pressure on everybody to make a very informed decision.”

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