Historisk arkiv

Ethical guidelines for the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Bondevik II

Utgiver: Finansdepartementet

Press release from the committee appointed to propose ethical guidelines for the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund, June 25 2003

Ethical guidelines for the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund

On behalf of the committee appointed to propose ethical guidelines for the Norwegian Government Petroleum Fund, Professor Hans Petter Graver submitted the committee’s report today to State Secretary Øystein Børmer of the Ministry of Finance. According to the report, the Government has a moral obligation to introduce ethical guidelines for the management of the Petroleum Fund. The committee proposes that the Ministry of Finance should draw up guidelines for Norges Bank’s corporate governance policy that take account of ethical as well as financial considerations. The committee also proposes that the Petroleum Fund should not invest in companies that produce strategic components for certain categories of weapons. In addition it proposes that in cases where there is a significant risk of contributing to obviously unethical actions, the company in question should be excluded from the investment universe. The committee recommends that the Ministry of Finance should establish a council on ethics and international law to investigate individual companies and make recommendations to the Ministry on the exclusion of companies.

The guidelines established by the Ministry should have democratic legitimacy and be based on overlapping consensus. Norges Bank and the council must report annually on how the guidelines are being practised, so that they can be publicly debated. With these guidelines, Norway will have made significant progress in its efforts to promote the ethical accountability of major institutional investors and ensure that they use their influence to promote sustainable development.

The following three methods are proposed as a basis for the ethical guidelines:

A corporate governance policy targeting long-term financial returns, mainly on the basis of the UN Global Compact and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The manager of the Government Petroleum Fund, Norges Bank, shall be responsible for the implementation of this policy.

The negative screening of companies from the investment universe that produce, either themselves or through entities under their control, strategic components for the following categories of weapons: chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel mines, non-detectable fragments, incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons, nuclear weapons and cluster bombs. These are weapons that cause particularly widespread civilian suffering. Investment in companies that are involved in the production of some of these weapons is already prohibited under international law.

The exclusion of companies from the investment universe that pose an unacceptable risk that the Fund might contribute to unethical actions or omissions, such as the violation of fundamental humanitarian principles, grave violations of human rights, gross corruption or severe environmental degradation.

In the management of the Petroleum Fund, it is important that the ethical guidelines do not weaken the criteria for the verifiability of the fund’s financial performance. Therefore, a scheme has been proposed to distinguish between economic and ethical considerations. The responsibility for promoting corporate ethical responsibility in connection with the exercise of ownership rights should lie with Norges Bank, and applies only insofar as the Bank itself can justify from a financial point of view. In this way, the Fund’s position as a shareholder and its financial interests can be used to promote economic, social and ecological sustainability as long as these considerations do not conflict with each other, while maintaining strict criteria for the verifiability of financial performance. Since Norges Bank is only to exercise ownership rights in cases where ethical and economic considerations do not conflict, it is important to identify those cases where the operation of an enterprise or the actual products conflict with fundamental ethical considerations. The responsibility for determining ethical constraints lies with the Ministry of Finance as the owner and is not based on economic considerations. This serves to highlight the ethical choices that are made.

Long-term returns on a broadly diversified financial portfolio are dependent on sustainable economic development. The Petroleum Fund will make a contribution toward this goal through an active corporate governance policy, although it will not be possible to quantify the results. The investment constraints proposed by the committee and the exclusion of investments are expected to have little effect on the Fund’s long term returns.

The committee’s report is translated into English.

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