Norwegian Wealth Fund to Investigate Companies for Uyghur Work Links Business and Economy News

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund told Reuters it would investigate whether the companies it invests in could use ethnic Uighur labor linked to China’s internment camp system in China. Xinjiang.

The $ 1.3 trillion Norwegian Wealth Fund will investigate whether the companies it invests in can use the labor of Uyghurs and other Muslims linked to the Chinese internment camp system in the Xinjiang region, said the head of the fund’s ethics watchdog at the Reuters news agency.

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which has considerable influence on the market as it holds 1.5% of the world’s listed shares in 9,100 companies, operates according to ethical guidelines set by Parliament.

Johan H Andresen, chairman of the fund’s Ethics Board, said the fund had started identifying companies he said were using workers who had been held in internment camps in Xinjiang.

“We are concerned that some of our fund companies may use this workforce. It may be a widespread practice, ”he said in an interview ahead of the release of the Council’s annual report on Wednesday.

“If we had to make a recommendation, it would be in the first half of this year,” he added. The recommendations are sent to the central bank’s board, which ultimately makes the decisions.

The central bank usually follows the board’s recommendations to censor companies, but sometimes, rather than immediately kick them out, it puts them on a watchlist to give them a set amount of time to come up with a plan to change their behavior or to face exclusion.

The bank can also ask the fund management to engage directly with the company on the matter of concern and can also decide to withdraw from a company if it considers that the participation of the fund presents too high an ethical risk.

The companies to be excluded are not named until the fund has sold the shares, in order to prevent the share from falling in value beforehand. The main objective is to eliminate the ethical risk.

China denies abuse charges in Xinjiang, where UN experts and human rights groups say more than a million people have been detained in recent years, and said the complexes that it has established in the region provide vocational training to help eradicate Islamist extremism and separatism. .

China said all of the people who attended the camps “graduated” and returned home. Access to the complexes is restricted and it is not possible to independently verify whether all camps have closed.

Ethical guidelines

Parliament prohibits the fund from investing in companies that produce nuclear weapons, landmines or tobacco, or that violate human rights, among other criteria.

Several textile companies were excluded from the fund, the most recent Page Industries in India, which produces swimwear for the Speedo brand. Page denies wrongdoing.

The fund’s Ethics Board is now turning its attention to companies that produce footwear, “a natural extension” of its work in the textile industry, Andresen said, since production processes are similar.

“We are still at an early stage,” he said.

Forced labor, or modern slavery, is also becoming a growing problem that will dominate the work of the council for years to come, he said. The council will commission a report this year from a non-governmental organization to take stock 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 engaged with the board and was making good progress on recruiting and welfare standards.

In total, some 70 companies were excluded from the fund, for various reasons, on the recommendations of the Ethics Council. 73 other companies were directly excluded by the central bank because of their dependence on coal.

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