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Norway does not control oil companies’ past

Norwegian authorities require a number of things from foreign oil and gas companies regarding the Norwegian Continental Shelf, but do not ask if they violate human rights in other countries.
Nevertheless, Petroleum and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe has no plans to introduce ethical requirements for licenses that Norwegian authorities award here.

“Then we have to pose questions to other companies in Norway, for example in the clothing trade. In answer to this, therefore, I think we should pay close attention to whether those who do business in Norway follow Norwegian laws and regulations,” Minister Borten Moe says.


Society will require change

Fafo researcher Mark B. Taylor thinks it is high time that ethical standards are introduced, however. He specialises in international law and human rights, particularly regarding companies in war and conflict.

“Civil society won’t just demand that Norwegian pensions are invested ethically on an increasing basis, but also that Norwegian companies must conduct themselves properly overseas. The same standard should apply to foreign companies in Norway,” he says.

Mr Taylor believes it is natural that Swedish authorities are investigating oil company Lundin.

“This should send a signal to Norwegian authorities and investors for gradual extra vigilance to any such company,” says the researcher.


Socialist Left wants investigation

Government Party SV has long demanded an investigation into Lundin Petroleum. They believe Lundin should not be awarded new blocks as long as the company in Sweden is under scrutiny.

Lundin has 28 operatorships and 55 partnerships on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Several of these are awarded after Swedish prosecutors initiated investigations.

“The discussion about whether Lundin and other companies of this character should be operating in Norway must be had now. SV did propose introducing ethical guidelines for the Sovereign Wealth Fund. It was seen as impossible at the time. I think that companies that are under investigation shouldn’t be able to automatically gain access to the Norwegian Continental Shelf,” says Hallgeir Langeland.

But isn’t the Sovereign Wealth Fund still shareholders in Lundin Petroleum?

“I assume that the Pension Fund is discussing investments in Lundin further on and considering exclusion,” Mr Langeland says.


Labour (Ap) awaiting Swedish decision

Eirin Sund, energy and environmental policy spokesman for the Labour Party, highlights that Lundin has not been convicted of anything in Sweden.

“We can’t conclude on anything until there is any conviction. However, I expect and take for granted that an oil company adheres to Norwegian law. Most companies I know are concerned about ethical questions, but I’m not going to declare whether this is adequate or not,” she says.

But isn’t this first and foremost about allegations of human rights violations in another country?

“It’s an interesting and complicated discussion. Other legislation applies in other countries. I’m not opposed to a code of ethics, but it’s not clear to me how it can be accomplished. Such requirements should apply to all companies anyway, not just in the hydrocarbon industry,” says Eirin Sund.

An international standard for human rights is set, but the problem is that this is not included in national legislation, according Fafo researcher Mark B. Taylor. He believes businesses, residents, and society need clarity on these issues.

ECOS, which is a collection of 50 human rights and aid organisations, has said companies that do not follow the UN Principles for Security and Human Rights worked out for the extraction industry should be denied licences on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

Lundin refusing to face the allegations against them should disqualify them from the Norwegian Continental Shelf, believes ECOS leader Egbert Wesselink.

“Until this has changed radically, Lundin should be denied new partnerships and all available and legitimate ways should be used to try and phase out current cooperation,” he declares.