Opinion: Norwegian Oil Fund’s investments to be screened for animal welfare violations.
The Norwegian Oil Fund (officially the Government Pension Fund Global) is one of the world’s largest asset owners, and a major shareholder in international meat and dairy corporations. This means that a huge amount of Norwegian money is being invested in companies which use factory farmed animals, kept in cruel and unnatural conditions.
Updates to the ethical guidelines
The Norwegian Oil Fund has ethical guidelines set by Parliament and the Ministry of Finance, and an independent Council on Ethics, who assess companies and make recommendations on exclusion and observation of assets and securities within the fund’s portfolios.
Animal welfare was not included in the ethical guidelines. However, in May 2021, for the first time, the Norwegian Parliament has recognised violations of animal welfare as a possible "particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms", which means that it can justify exclusion of companies from the fund.
In practice this means that the Council on Ethics is obliged to consider animal welfare and can recommend that companies are put under observation or excluded for “particularly serious” breaches.
“The Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance is thrilled that animal welfare is finally on the Norwegian Oil Fund’s agenda. It is a huge step forward that the Norwegian Parliament has so clearly emphasized that the wellbeing of animals is a fundamental ethical norm to be taken into account when investing government funds internationally.”, says Anton Krag, CEO of the Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance (NAPA).
Next step - turning words into action
Now that the Norwegian Oil Fund has recognised that severe violations of animal welfare can present a violation of fundamental ethical norms, it is important that these words are turned into action.
Intensive Pig farming pictured above: Pigs are amongst the most intensively farmed animals on the planet. To meet demand they are reared in intensive, barren factory farms and confined to steel cages; causing discomfort and defects, and preventing natural behaviour.
The fund has links with many of the world’s biggest factory farming operators. For instance, at the end of 2019, the fund had investments worth around 1.3 billion euros in WH Group, the largest pork producer in the world. The fund also holds shares in Muyuan Foods, which is currently building the world's largest pig farm, which will produce about 2.1 million pigs every year.
Therefore, the Council of Ethics should consider evidence of serious animal welfare violations by companies the fund invests in. Companies for which there is evidence of severe breaches should be placed on the blacklist, meaning that the fund will no longer invest in them.
This would send a strong signal to other companies, as well as other international investors and funds who are increasingly recognising that animal welfare forms a part of responsible investment.
 Norges Bank Investment Management, “Oversikt over samtlige investeringer, Beholdninger per 31.12.19”, URL: https://www.nbim.no/no/oljefondet/beholdningene/beholdninger-per-31.12.2019.