One of the world’s largest pension funds has sold its Wal-Mart stock, citing the retailer’s “serious and systemic violations of human rights and labour rights.”
The Norwegian Government Pension Fund, which invests the country’s surplus oil revenue for future generations, announced that it had dropped Wal-Mart from its portfolio and sold more than $400 million worth of the company’s stock.
The fund, which is now worth $240 billion, is expected, given current growth rates, to be the world’s second largest retirement fund by year’s end. It is managed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.
The finance ministry acted to dump Wal-Mart after a recommendation from its ethical council, which was established in 2004 to guide investment decisions. The council examined Wal-Mart’s operations in North America and the operations of its suppliers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and China. It concluded that investing in the company “entails an unacceptable risk that the fund may be complicit in serious, systematic or gross violations of norms.” Its report cited pressure on store employees to work overtime without compensation, discrimination against women in terms of pay and promotions, hazardous working conditions at suppliers’ factories, and aggressive anti-union tactics.
Wal-Mart has no stores in Norway, which has limited the construction of superstores through its national planning policies.
The oil fund has excluded a total of 19 companies, most of which are arms manufacturers. Wal-Mart is the first retailer boycotted by the fund.
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