Anyone that knows Nimsoft will know that we were founded in Norway and continue to run all of our R&D from Oslo, Norway. However, I have found that many people know very little about Norway and what is stands for as a country.
I have pulled this recent article from the Associated Press which may start to tell you a little more about the Norwegian people and their ethics. Hope this is enjoyable reading.
Norway Oil Fund Mixes Money, Ethics
By DOUG MELLGREN Associated Press Writer
? 2006 The Associated Press
OSLO, Norway ? What do Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Boeing Co., Honeywell International Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp. share along with being U.S.-based?
They’re all corporations that have been put on a blacklist by a Norwegian state investment fund that aims to make the nation’s huge oil wealth grow for the benefit of its citizens while making the world a better place.
The $263 billion global fund is under strict government-imposed ethical guidelines to ensure that money doesn’t go to companies linked to such things as weapons production, human rights abuses, environmental damage or corruption.
“The main reason is not to contribute to unethical investments so the Norwegian people can sleep better at night,” said Gro Nystuen, leader of a national Council of Ethics that oversees the fund’s investments in up to 4,000 companies worldwide.
Offshore fields have made NATO-member Norway the world’s third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia. As home to the Nobel Peace Prize, it also seeks to be a global do-gooder _ mediating some of the world’s worst conflicts and donating more foreign aid per capita than any other nation.
The Nordic nation of 4.6 million people has been plowing its oil windfall into the fund, formally called Norwegian Pension Fund _ Global, which will provide for the retirement of millions of Norwegians once the country’s oil resources dry up. There is no set year for when to start using the fund, or the amount to shell out to each retiree _ the economy will decide.
The Central Bank-operated fund is currently worth nearly 2.5 times the entire central government budget for 2007 of this welfare state. The government transferred $34 billion to it in 2005.
The fund was set up by Parliament in 1990, but the first deposits weren’t made until 1996. Other countries have ethical guidelines for government funds, but Nystuen said he knew of no other that operated under such strict rules.
The government imposed the guidelines in 2004; since then, 18 companies _ 12 of them U.S.-based _ have been excluded. One of them, oil and gas producer Kerr-McGee Corp., was reinstated this year.
Blacklistings can draw angry responses. After Wal-Mart _ the world’s largest retailer _ was barred this year, the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Benson K. Whitney, denounced the ethics system, calling it unfair, inconsistent and hypocritical.
“Norway found Wal-Mart unethical for allegedly discouraging unions, but the government’s Pension Fund stands silent about firms in its portfolio from countries in which no unions, or only state unions, are allowed,” he said in a September speech.
“Strangely enough, by this approach, the Pension Fund currently encourages unethical companies and discourages ethical ones.”
Despite such criticism, the idea may be spreading.
“A fund _ a major player but I won’t say which _ told me they just copied the (Norwegian) rules verbatim,” said Knut Kjaer, director of the bank’s investment branch. “I have heard a lot of praise for Norway around the world.”
The National Council of Ethics periodically reviews investments, then makes recommendations to the Finance Ministry. If it agrees, the ministry orders the bank to sell its stake in the banned company within a few weeks.
The sale is done very secretly, so the company’s share price does not collapse.
“When we get the letter, saying they want to exclude a company, we can’t go public and say ‘Company C will be excluded from the oil fund,’” said Kjaer.
Kjaer said ethics have a price: It costs brokers’ fees to sell shares, an order can come when a company’s shares are low, and the range of companies to invest in is then reduced. Since the limits are so new, he could not estimate the cost to Norway of ethical investment.
After the shares are sold, Norway announces the ban and its reasons in detail.
“It would probably be fine if we just sold the shares and didn’t say anything,” she said. “But we are the only ones to not only announce the names of the companies, but also publish the reasons.”
Last year, banned companies included Boeing, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman Corp. and United Technologies Corp. for contributing to the production of nuclear weapons; Alliant Techsystems Inc., General Dynamics Corp., L3 Communications Holdings Inc., Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Co. because they contribute to the manufacturing of cluster bombs; and Wal-Mart for alleged human rights and labor abuses.
“I believe that the current ethical investment process is inconsistent with what I have come to know as the fair, just, and transparent values of the Norwegian people,” said Whitney, the U.S. ambassador. “The stain of an official accusation of bad ethics harms reputations and can have serious economic implications.”
On the other hand, Nystuen said, the fear of just such a Norwegian stain might make some companies “want to tread carefully to avoid bad publicity.”