Norway shuns Wal-Mart

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Human rights

An Oslo-based pension fund, currently the world's largest, has
boycotted global retailer Wal-Mart on the grounds that it is
engaged in serious human rights abuses.

The Norwegian government, owner of the €188.3bn oil fund, said Tuesday it has already sold 2.5bn kroner (€321.2m) worth of the supermarket's shares after a national council investigation deemed the investment unethical.

The council also recommended barring shares in US mining group Freeport-McMoran for its alleged disregard for the environment.

"The council's assessments deal with issues under the Ethical Guidelines which have not been dealt with by previous recommendations, such as violations of human rights, labour rights and complicity in serious damage to the environment,"​ said finance minister Kristin Halvorsen.

The pension fund's ethics committee has alleged Wal-Mart is involved in "serious and systematic human rights abuses"​, consistently flouting international rules on child labour, health and safety, underpaying women and blocking unionisation in the workforce.

A news release said the State Bank of Norway, which manages the pension fund, had invited Wal-Mart to comment, but received no reply.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, formally called the oil fund, is used to set aside surplus wealth created by the country's oil production facilities. The account is worth around 1.5 trillion kroner.

The Norwegian boycott has become the latest in a string of attacks on the multinational retailer.

In the UK, Asda Wal-Mart is today facing the possibility of mass strikes at leading depots, after failing to honour agreements with the GMB workers union to improve employee conditions.

A ballot on strike action is to be held across the country, following months of turmoil and a hefty court fine for Asda, after the retailer was found guilty of breaking employment law regarding union activity.

The supermarket is also feeling the heat elsewhere in Europe, as Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price​ received rapturous praise at the Berlin film festival a few weeks ago.

The documentary, made by maverick American director Robert Greenwald, tells the stories of aggrieved employees and small retailers who have suffered under monopolisation by the supermarket heavyweight.Greenwald told audiences in Germany: Wal-Mart is the poster child for the worst in corporate behaviour.

"They have a culture that says it's OK to do anything as long as it's good for profits."

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