The Ministry of Finance has decided to exclude 17 companies that produce tobacco from the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), based on a recommendation from the Fund’s Council on Ethics. The divestment of shares in these companies has now been completed.
“When the Graver Committee proposed the current ethical guidelines, there was debate on whether to exclude tobacco producers from the Fund. Under some doubt, it was decided that tobacco should not be excluded. After the Graver Committee submitted its recommendation, there have been international and national developments through the entry into force of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the tightening of the Norwegian Tobacco Act. We have taken these changes on board and believe – amongst others in light of the consultative input in connection with the evaluation of the ethical guidelines – that it is timely to exclude tobacco from the Fund. It is important that the ethical guidelines reflect at all times what can be considered to be commonly held values of the owners of the Fund,” says Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen.
In Report No. 20 to the Storting on the Management of the GPFG, the Ministry proposed excluding tobacco producers from the Fund. The move was supported by the Storting. The specific delimitation of the tobacco criterion was described in the National Budget for 2010. The recommendation was made in line with this.
On the basis of the index providers’ industrial classification of companies in the GPFG’s equity and fixed-income portfolio (FTSE All Cap and Barclays Global Aggregate) and information on the companies’ own websites, the Council on Ethics has identified 17 companies engaged in activities affected by the criterion for exclusion of tobacco producers. Since the companies themselves state that they are primarily engaged in tobacco production, the Council on Ethics has not found it necessary to contact the companies to confirm this.
The excluded companies are: Alliance One International Inc., Altria Group Inc., British American Tobacco BHD, British American Tobacco Plc., Gudang Garam tbk pt., Imperial Tobacco Group Plc., ITC Ltd., Japan Tobacco Inc., KT&G Corp, Lorillard Inc., Philip Morris International Inc., Philip Morris Cr AS., Reynolds American Inc., Souza Cruz SA, Swedish Match AB, Universal Corp VA and Vector Group Ltd.
In drafting a new criterion on screening tobacco producers, the Ministry of Finance placed particular emphasis on finding a delimitation that fits well with the structure of the current ethical guidelines, including existing rules for negative screening of certain weapons manufacturers.
On this basis, a rule has been adopted that in principle will exclude all production of tobacco, regardless of the percentage of business represented by tobacco production. This means that it will be possible to exclude a few more companies than those listed under the industrial classification “tobacco” by the index providers. The new screening criterion for tobacco production is limited to tobacco products and does not include associated products such as filters and flavour additives.
The Council on Ethics has given notice that it may return with further recommendations to exclude companies that produce tobacco.
The recommendation of the Council on Ethics is available here
Read more about the Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund – Global at www.etikkradet.no