The Norwegian pension scheme KLP is excluding the French oil company Total from its investments. KLP considers Total's activities in Western Sahara unethical.
This article was published on website of Norwegian broadcaster NRK on 03.06.2013.
Translated to English by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
KLP, the local government pension scheme, no longer wants to include one of the worlds largest oil companies in its investment portfolio.
The reason is the oil company's agreement with Morocco to explore for oil and gas offshore Western Sahara.
“KLP believes that Total's activities on the continental shelf off Western Sahara's coast may be linked to breaches of fundamental ethical norms,” Jeanett Bergan, leader of responsible investments in KLP Kapitalforvaltning, said.
Bergan added that Western Sahara is in practice annexed by Morocco.
Total has resumed its exploration for oil and gas offshore Western Sahara. All activity on the continental shelf off Western Sahara's coast is linked to breaches of fundamental ethical norms, KLP believes.
Financial Times's survey of the world's largest companies as measured in market value listed Total as 39th in 2012.
Globally, only 12 companies had a greater turnover than Total in 2012. The company has 97,000 employees and operates in 130 countries.
Annexed by Morocco
Western Sahara is today to a great extent populated by people with a Moroccan background who have moved to the area after Morocco de facto annexed it.
The population of Western Sahara is today approximately 500,000. About 165,000 of the areas original population, the Sahrawis, have been expelled to refugee camps in Algeria, where they live under dire conditions.
Moroccan authorities have constructed a 2500-km-long wall guarded by the army, and the wall is surrounded by minefields and a large number of land mines.
This barrier makes it difficult for the expelled Sahrawis to get to the areas of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco.
“Not Breaking the Law”
KLP has been in contact with Total's headquarters in France.
“The company has pointed out that it is not breaking international law, nor have we claimed that it is,” Bergan said. “KLP excludes all companies that are carrying out extraction of natural resources in occupied Western Sahara.”
KLP and the KLP funds together had investments of about NKR 400 million in Total S.A. as of 31 December 2012.
In comparison, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Abroad owned at the end of 2012 shares in Total worth NKR 14.5 billion, equivalent to 2.1% of its shares.
Bridgestone and FMC in from the Cold
Some companies have, however, become more ethical on the basis of the norms practiced by KLP, such as Bridgestone Corporation.
The company was excluded in December of 2006 because of child labour at a rubber plantation in Liberia which is owned and run by Firestone, Bridgewater's wholly-owned subsidiary.
The plantation is the world's largest rubber plantation, and the company is a substantial employer, with more than 6000 employees in a country otherwise characterized by high unemployment. The employees have a quota for the amount of rubber they have to tap each day. To be able to fulfil this, many have brought along children and other family members.
“Bridgestone has cleaned up the problems of child labour, and the exclusion has therefore been lifted as June,” Jeanett Bergan related.
So there are companies that become more ethical?"
“Yes, fortunately, and Bridgestone is one of them,” she said.
In addition to Bridgestone, FMC Corporation has also come in from the cold and is included as of 1 June as a company in which KLP can invest.
The American chemical company FMC Corporation was excluded from the KLP and KLP funds' investment universe in June 2010.
KLP and the KLP funds have also decided to lift the exclusion of FMC Corporation from KLP and the KLP funds investments as of 1 June 2013.
FMC Corporation no longer buys phosphate, and thus no longer buys phosphate from Western Sahara.
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