Norway wealth fund to probe companies for Uighur labour hyperlinks | Enterprise and Financial system Information
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund tells Reuters that it will investigate whether the companies it invests in may employ the labor of ethnic Uyghurs linked to China’s detention center system in Xinjiang.
The Norwegian $ 1.3 trillion wealth fund will examine whether companies it is invested in may employ the labor of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims linked to China’s detention center system in the Xinjiang region, the head of the said Ethics watchdog of the fund told Reuters news agency.
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which has massive market influence because it owns 1.5 percent of the globally listed shares of 9,100 companies, is subject to the ethical guidelines set by parliament.
Johan H. Andresen, chairman of the fund’s ethics council, said the fund had started identifying companies that were alleged to have employed workers detained in detention centers in Xinjiang.
“We fear that some of our companies in the fund could use this manpower. This is possibly a widespread practice, ”he said in an interview prior to the release of the Council’s annual report on Wednesday.
“If we were to make a recommendation, it would be in the first half of this year,” he added. Recommendations are sent to the board of directors of the central bank, which ultimately makes decisions.
The central bank usually follows the advice of the council to censure companies. Sometimes, however, they are not immediately disfellowshipped, but rather placed on a watchlist to give them a set period of time to develop a plan to change their behavior or to expel.
The bank may also ask the fund management team to contact the company directly on the matter and may decide to divest a company if it believes the fund’s involvement is too ethical Represents risk.
Companies to be excluded are not named until the fund has sold the shares in order to prevent the shares from losing value beforehand. The main goal is to eliminate the ethical risk.
China denies allegations of abuse in Xinjiang, where United Nations experts and rights groups say more than a million people have been detained in recent years, and said the complexes built in the region offer professional training to address Islamist extremism and separatism to stamp out.
China has said that all of the people who attended the camps graduated and went home. Access to the complexes is restricted and it is not possible to independently check that all camps are closed.
Parliament has prohibited the fund from investing in companies that manufacture nuclear weapons, land mines or tobacco or that violate human rights.
Several textile companies were excluded from the fund, most recently the Indian Page Industries, which makes swimwear for the Speedo brand. Page denies wrongdoing.
The fund’s ethics council is now turning its attention to companies that make shoes, “a natural extension” of its work in the textile industry, Andresen said, since the production processes are similar.
“We’re still in the early stages,” he said.
Forced labor or modern slavery is also becoming a growing issue that will dominate the work of the council for years to come, he said. The council will commission a report from a non-governmental organization this year to determine the extent of forced labor around the world.
The fund has already excluded companies, including security firm G4S, for these reasons. G4S said at the time that it had worked with the council and was making good progress on recruitment and welfare standards.
A total of around 70 companies were excluded from the fund for various reasons based on recommendations by the Ethics Council. Another 73 companies were banned directly from the central bank due to their reliance on coal.