DECADE: Norway Sovereign Wealth Still Views Wal-Mart as a Human Rights Violator

Norges Bank, the overseer of Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), typically follows given recommendations from the Council on Ethics appointed by Norway’s Ministry of Finance when it comes to excluding companies for the sovereign wealth fund. For over a decade now, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart De Mexico SA de CV remain on the exclusion list in the category of “Serious Violations of Human Rights.” Both entities have been on the list since May 31, 2006 and make up 2 out of the 3 violators in the human rights categorization. The other company on Norway’s exclusion list via human rights is Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd. However, the situation is different now. In 2006, Norway’s GPFG was less than US$ 250 billion in assets; today the wealth fund approaches US$ 1 trillion and has taken a more active stance on labor issues via proxy votes. Norway’s sovereign fund is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world in terms of assets under management and one of the biggest owners of companies from a public institutional investor standpoint.

Wal-Mart’s Low Wage Overhang

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the United States and has been attacked by various labor groups for paying its employees very low wages, forcing many Wal-Mart “associates” to also enroll in U.S. government welfare programs to maintain a standard of living. The retailer is constantly barraged in the U.S. press over labor or linked discriminatory stories. In July 2017, 10 illegal immigrants from Mexico were found dead by U.S. authorities at a San Antonio Wal-Mart store location, in an incident related to human smuggling.

According to the Council on Ethics’ recommendation of 15 November 2005 “An extensive body of material indicates that Wal-Mart consistently and systematically employs minors in contravention of international rules, that working conditions at many of its suppliers are dangerous or health-hazardous, that workers are pressured into working overtime without compensation, that the company systematically discriminates against women in pay, that all attempts to unionise by the company’s employees are stopped, that employees are in a number of cases unreasonably punished and locked in, along with a number of other circumstances…”.

On another note, Wal-Mart is trying to compete against Amazon in the e-commerce space, fighting over consumer spenders. Wal-Mart had acquired to enhance its online presence.

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