(First published in Norwegian 25 September 2008)
By Erik Hagen
In July 2007 Norwatch reported on Fokus Bank’s lack of ethical investment management. At that time Norwatch revealed that Fokus Bank invested its customers’ money in 10 of the 19 companies that Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global then had excluded for ethical reasons. Among the investments were producers of cluster munitions, nuclear weapons, and landmines.
Fokus Bank is in fact a Danish bank and is called Danske Bank in Denmark. The Danish management explained last year that they did not have ethical guidelines for their investments.
Since the debate about ethical fund management had reached much further in Norway than in Denmark, Danish-owned Fokus Bank had landed in a predicament. In Norway the largest private banks had long been strongly criticised for their lack of investment ethics. Gradually, several of the banks have started following the Pension Fund’s decisions.
During the past year the debate about socially responsible investments has also raged in the Danish media. Now Denmark’s largest bank has taken action.
Danske Bank has announced that it has excluded 13 companies from its portfolios. See the list of the blacklisted companies here.
Eight of the companies have already been excluded from the Pension Fund because they produce cluster munitions or landmines. In addition, it is noteworthy that Danske Bank in some respects goes further than the Pension Fund and has excluded, among others, Nissan for its participation in transporting military equipment to Sudan and Burma.
Danske Bank has, in addition, placed a series of companies “on observation”. With regard to these companies the bank will now practise active ownership.
“We have decided to introduce a policy of socially responsible investments to ensure that our customers can feel confident about placing their investments with us,” Niels-Ulrik Mousten, Senior Executive Vice President, Danske Capital, announced in a statement on Danske Bank’s web pages on 24 September 2008.