Ethical Consumption in the News: June 13-20

This week’s top ethical consumption story is (1) New York Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban state government agencies from doing business with groups that support BDS. In climate change news: (2) several Aussie Catholic orders, following Pope Francis’ lead, will divest fully from fossil fuels; (3) a former SEC commissioner is arguing that ‘prudence’ in investment management should include managing climate-related risk; (4) Mark Carney praised Alberta’s climate change plan; and (5) Cambridge and NYU will not go fossil free. Also this week: (6) India’s mandatory corporate social responsibility law was amended to include sports; (7) the South Korean Oxy boycott leads to layoffs; and (8) can big data end boycotts?

1. Boycotting a boycott: NY won’t do business with BDS supporters

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has signed an executive order directing state agencies not to do business with organizations that support the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS boycotts Israeli companies for human rights reasons. Cuomo’s decision has been fiercely opposed by civil liberties organizations, some of which claim that the order constitutes “21st-century McCarthyism” and violates the First Amendment.

While alarming in this writer’s view, it is important to note that Cuomo’s decision is not without precedent. In February 2016 the UK issued a new procurement policy barring public bodies from undertaking procurement boycotts unless the UK Government has put in place formal legal sanctions. Although targeted at BDS the procurement policy covers all boycotts. Last year BDS was ruled hate speech in France.

In May a law barring the Government of Ontario from doing business with BDS-supporters was proposed as a private member’s bill in that province. Although the bill failed, it demonstrates increasing hostility to BDS amongst government bodies in Canada. For instance, in February the Government of Canada passed a motion formally condemning BDS. And you may recall the political scuffle from May 2015 when it was rumored that then-Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was prepared to direct the Ministry to apply hate crime laws against groups promoting the BDS movement. These rumors prompted an onslaught of public pressure. While Minister Blaney unequivocally denied the rumors, calling them “inaccurate and ridiculous”, moves to ban BDS in Canada and elsewhere serve as a reminder that the freedom of boycott movements is not a foregone conclusion, and that ongoing efforts will be needed to preserve the space for consumers to act as moral agents.

2. Aussie Catholic orders, following Pope Francis’ lead, divest fully from fossil fuels

Four Australian Catholic orders will divest completely from fossil fuels. The decision has been interpreted as a response the papal encyclical on the environment that Pope Francis released in 2015, which called for “swift and unified action” to protect the environment and combat climate change.

The move accompanies an open letter from multi-faith religious leaders calling on the Government of Australia to protect the Great Barrier Reef and transition to a low carbon economy immediately. Faith organizations, notably the United Church, have been significant actors in the fossil-free movement; however, this recent announcement is unprecedented for the Catholic Church.

3. ‘Prudence’ in investment management should include managing climate-related risk, former SEC commissioner argues

Bevis Longstreth, a former commissioner of the SEC (the US securities regulator) has written a proposal that would potentially open the floodgates to further divestment from fossil fuel producing companies. Fossil fuel divestment is a movement in which asset holders pledge not to invest in companies which produce fossil fuels, or some variationon that general theme. The movement now encompasses at least $2.6 trillion in assets, following a fifty-fold increase in the three months leading up to the Paris climate summit.

Longstreth’s proposal discusses how the duty of prudence, which governs the investment of funds held by non-profit corporations and some other institutions in the US, should be exercised in light of climate change risks. This duty has become an obstacle for some organizations that wish to engage in socially responsible investment, which can be riskier and typically brings in a lower return on investment, but are bound by an obligation to preserve the endowment. The proposal argues for a legal reinterpretation of prudent management such that it takes into account climate-related risks.

4. Mark Carney praises Alberta’s climate change plan

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney praised Alberta’s climate change plan while in Edmonton to speak at a University of Alberta convocation ceremony. Mark Carney, also the former Governor of the Bank of Canada, has commanded attention recently by calling for greater attentiveness to the financial risks of the ‘carbon bubble’.

5. Campus divestment news: Cambridge, NYU will not go fossil free

Cambridge University will not divest its £5.9 billion endowment from fossil fuels, nor will NYU.

6. India’s mandatory corporate social responsibility law amended to include sports

The Indian Companies Act – a law passed in India in 2014 that requires companies to use two percent of profits for corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities – has been amended to allow the use of CSR funds for sports, including sports infrastructure.

7. Oxy boycott leads to layoffs

Oxy out”, a South Korean consumer boycott of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, prompted by lung damage deaths connected to the company’s humidifier disinfectants, has led to mass layoffs by the company. The company’s sales have dropped considerably since the boycott was announced.

8. Big data to end retail boycotts?

A recent article heralded Qloo for its potential to end the retail boycott. Qloo, which claims to have “mapped the [consumer] taste genome”, uses big data to analyze consumer preferences, which they can then use to shape business decisions. Specifically, Qloo can identify cultural sensitivities so that businesses are able to avoid issues that might potentially prompt consumer boycotts – for example, Target’s laudable transgender inclusive bathroom policy.  

Ethical Consumption in the News: May 12 to June 7

This installation of ethical consumption in the news features ten stories: (1) the Ontario legislature rejected a bill barring the Government from doing business with BDS-supporters; (2) the Gates Foundation dropped BP; (3) South Korea’s consumer boycott of Oxy gathers momentum; (4) the United Methodist Church has withdrawn from a BDS coalition; (5) a major U.S. pension fund will consider re-investing in tobacco firms; (6) Scottish mackerel gains the MSC label; (7) the European Commission has adopted a report on an EU eco-label; (8) Australian consumers are buycotting local milk; (9) Buzzfeed will not run Trump ads; and (10) Beyoncé’s new clothing line has drawn criticisms over labour conditions.

1. Meta-Boycott Bill Fails in Ontario

A private-member’s bill that would have barred the Government of Ontario from doing business with organizations participating in the controversial BDS movement (which boycotts Israeli companies for human rights reasons) was voted down in the Ontario legislature by a margin of 39-18 on March 19.

2. Gates Foundation Drops Investment in Major Oil Company, But Likely Not for Ethical Reasons

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropic foundations, has sold its $187 million USD stake British Petroleum (BP). The foundation had previously divested from ExxonMobil. It is unclear whether this move was made for ethical reasons, however: BP reported a record loss in February. Moreover, Bill Gates had stirred controversy in late 2015 by calling fossil fuel divestment a “false solution” to climate change (see my coverage of this issue here). As the Gates Foundation does not comment on its investments, it is possible only to speculate about the rationale for this change, but it seems most likely that this was primarily, if not exclusively, a financial calculation.

3. “Oxy Out” Expands Across South Korea

The consumer boycott of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, begun due to a scandal involving lung damage deaths connected to the company’s humidifier disinfectants, has grown across South Korea: sales have decreased by 53% since the boycott began.

4. United Methodist Church Rejects HP Divestment, Withdraws from BDS coalition

The United Methodist Church considered, but ultimately rejected, divestment from the software company Hewlett-Packard (HP), as well as Caterpillar and Motorola Solutions. Church leaders at the General Conference in Portland discussed whether investment in HP goes against their religious beliefs, in light of the use of HP products by the Israeli Navy and at biometric checkpoints in the West Bank. The United Methodist Church’s pension board has previously divested from companies that are connected to arguably illegal Israeli settlements (for example, it divested from five Israeli banks in January). For a good overview of this issue, see here.

5. Rising Tobacco Profits Threaten to Undermine Previous Divestment Decisions

The largest pension fund in the U.S., California Public Employees’ Retirement System, will study whether to reinvest in tobacco stocks. As you may remember from previous weeks, this is connected to the rising profits of tobacco firms after over a decade of poor growth. On the other hand, Axa SA (France’s largest insurer) announced on 23 May that it will divest from tobacco companies for ethical reasons, despite the financial cost of doing so.

6. Scottish Mackerel Fishery Wins MSC Certification

On 11 May the Scottish North East Atlantic mackerel fishery was awarded MSC certification. This has meant that the U.K.-based Nor-Sea Foods can once again apply MSC labels to its chilled fish products, which are sold in Tesco chains.

7. EU to Consider Report on EU Fish Eco-label

Also in fish news, the European Commission has adopted a report proposing options for an EU eco-label scheme for fish and aquaculture products.

8. Australian Consumers Buycott Local Dairy Farmers

By eschewing imported milk in favour of more expensive local producers, Australian consumers hope to promote domestic dairy.

9. Buzzfeed Will Not Advertise Trump

Citing ethical concerns about Trump’s rhetoric, Buzzfeed cancelled a $1.3 million USD advertising deal with the GOP. The new media organization likened the decision to its policy not to run cigarette ads, noting that both are hazardous to society.

10. Female Empowerment? Beyoncé Selling Sweat Gear from Sweat Shops

Beyoncés new activewear clothing label, Ivy Park, has come under fire for failing to live up to its stated aim to “celebrate every woman and the body she’s in”. Like other producers in the fast fashion industry, Ivy Park uses suppliers that are situated in developing nations and which pay their workers low wages and provide poor working conditions. That the clothing is being marketed as a champion of women’s empowerment while being produced by Sri Lankan women making 69 cents per hour is, it has been pointed out, ironic. Ivy Park has denied wrongdoing, noting that it expects suppliers to meet its code of conduct. It is worth noting that labour concerns are a nearly ubiquitous problem in the fast fashion industry; it is very likely that the conditions of Ivy Park’s supplier are not below the norm, but they are nonetheless dismaying. 

Ethical Consumption in the News: April 18-24

This week featured five notable ethical consumption news stories: 175 states signed the Paris Agreement; Alberta released details on its carbon levy; a London mayoral candidate endorsed fossil fuel divestment; campuses are protesting in favor of fossil fuel divestment; and Dalhousie’s students’ union backed BDS. 

1. World Leaders Sign Paris Agreement at UN on Earth Day

On Friday government representatives of 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement, setting a new record for the most signatories to an international agreement. The Agreement will enter into force when countries representing at least 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions and 55% of the population ratify the agreement (passing a domestic law implementing the treaty). Canada plans to ratify the Paris Agreement this year, as does France, Mexico, and Australia.

2. Alberta to Set Carbon Price at $20/tonne in 2017

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, which will launch at the beginning of 2017, is to include a carbon levy set at $20/tonne, rising to $30/tonne in 2018. The Government expects that the program will garner $9.6 billion in revenue, which it plans to reinvest in economic diversification and supports to households, SMEs, and vulnerable communities. The opposing Wildrose Party has characterized the carbon pricing scheme as a cash grab.

Also on Albertan climate policy, a report released on Earth Day by Greenpeace, the Alberta Green Economy Network, and Gridworks Energy Group estimates that the green economy will create 145 000 jobs in the province.

3. The ‘Carbon Bubble’ Prompts U.K. Conservative Mayoral Candidate to Back Fossil Fuel Divestment

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative candidate in London’s mayoral race, has said that, if elected, he will divest that city’s pension fund from oil, gas, and coal. Goldsmith plans to achieve fossil fuel divestment by appointing pro-divestment members to the fund’s board. Perhaps more interestingly, Goldsmith linked fossil fuel divestment to the risk of a ‘carbon bubble’ – a financial theory that has been advocated for recently by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. The carbon bubble points to systemic risks posed by the ‘unburnable carbon’ thesis (the notion that some fossil fuels will by necessity be left in the ground), which implies that coal, gas, and oil assets are overvalued.

4. Agitations for Fossil Fuel Divestment on Campuses Resulting in Socially Responsible Investment Policies, Disappointing Some

Columbia University students organized a sleep-out to protest their University’s investment in fossil fuel companies. This follows a decision in November by the University’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing that rejected a proposal for fossil fuel divestment, instead recommending targeted divestment. The protests at Columbia are emblematic of unfolding socially responsible investment politics in which normative calls for divestment are responded to with less exclusionary policies that draw on a mix of normative and financial arguments. This is in part because member- and mission-based organizations have fiduciary duties that render normative divestment challenging. Steps along these lines have recently been taken at the University of Toronto and Boston University. Additionally, Yale University divested $10 million in coal and tar sands investments, arguing that such investments will not be profitable if carbon is priced effectively. Of course, other institutions like Syracuse University have divested more categorically from fossil fuel extracting companies. In June the University of Massachusetts may follow Syracuse’s example. Still others, such as Stanford University, have adopted exclusionary investment policies but against coal producers only.

Also in campus fossil fuel divestment, Australian university students held a “Flood the Campus” campaign, undertaking protest actions at several major universities there.

5. Dalhousie SU Backs BDS

Dalhousie’s student union has voted to divest from Israeli companies that they argue are complicit in human rights abuses. 

Ethical Consumption in the News: October 25-31

Throughout the final week of October six ethical consumption news items are noteworthy: the pro-Palestinian BDS movement was ruled hate speech in France; the legal battle continues over Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law; fossil fuel divestment advocates reacted to Bill Gates’ anti-divestment statement; specific fossil fuel divestment achievements were reached; efforts intensified to stop the haze caused by forest burning in Southeast Asia; and some U.S. police unions called for a boycott of Tarantino films. Read below for more on each of these stories.

1. Israel Boycotts Ruled Hate Speech in France

Early this week, a French court upheld a prior ruling in which a group of 12 pro-Palestinian activists were fined for urging participation in the BDS movement (boycotts, divestments and sanctions), which asks consumers and businesses to forgo products made in Israel, on human rights grounds. The activists were prosecuted under hate speech laws.

While the BDS movement is controversial, this ruling is cause for potential concern amongst boycott activists, as it associates boycott activities with discrimination. The ruling will have particular relevance for Canadians that may remember a similar controversy in May 2015, when it was rumored that Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was prepared to direct the Ministry to apply hate crime laws against groups promoting the BDS movement. These rumors prompted an onslaught of public pressure. While Minister Blaney unequivocally denied the rumors, calling them “inaccurate and ridiculous”, the recent French court decision serves as a reminder that the freedom of boycott movements is not a foregone conclusion, and that ongoing efforts will be needed to preserve the space for consumers to act as moral agents.

2. GMO Woes: Legal Battle Over Vermont Law Continues

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – a large trade association for food, beverages, and consumer products that represents more than 300 large companies from Coca-Cola and Pepsi to Kellogg, Nestlé, and Hershey – has continued its legal challenge to a Vermont law (the “Right to Know Act”) requiring the labeling of food and beverages with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which is set to go into effect soon (labeling is required by July 2016). Currently, GMA is seeking to prevent Vermont from implementing the law until litigation has been resolved. A U.S. district court had previously ruled against GMA but the trade association appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The Second Circuit case is called Grocery Manufacturers Association, et al. v. Sorrell (Case No. 15-1504). There has yet to be a ruling on this issue. Although it continues to oppose the law, GMA recently issued guidance for companies on how to comply with the law.

3. Kayakctivists Urge Bill Gates to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Bill Gates recently made waves when he stated that divestment was not a real solution to climate change. In a latest demonstration of displeasure with the statement, Seattle “Kayakctivists” this week urged the Gates Foundation to divest from oil and coal. It wouldn’t be the first large philanthropic foundation to do so – despite its history in big oil, the Rockefeller Foundation divested from fossil fuels a year ago.

Fossil fuel divestment proponents argue that it is an important step to reduce the profitability of fossil fuel companies, as well to reduce the extent of influence wielded by fossil fuel companies both because of the financial resources at their disposal and because investment in fossil fuels by public organizations give them a vested interest in the continuance of fossil fuel dependence. Bill Gates and others have criticized fossil fuel divestment, arguing that it is ineffective (for example, continually dropping coal stock prices have led some to speculate that the industry may be on its way out, irrespective of divestment efforts). You can read more about this debate in the Pullback article on fossil fuel divestment here.

A few notable figures have voiced support for fossil fuel divestment this week. Prince Charles leant his voice to the fossil free movement, calling for divestment and for decarbonisation of the global economy more broadly. This plea comes about one month before governments will meet in Paris for COP21 climate talks. Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has also said that he supports fossil fuel divestment on U.S. campuses.

4. Some Small Victories for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Newsworthy fossil fuel divestment efforts this week pertain to campuses, congregations, Australia, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

News on divestment efforts by universities is largely positive this week. The Concordia University Foundation board decided to divest $5 million USD from fossil fuels; recently, it has been announced that this money will be reinvested in the socially responsible investment firm Nelson Capital Management. Fossil fuel divestment demonstrations took place at NYU and University of Pennsylvania this week. Also in the U.S., the Student Assembly of the State University of New York passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from fossil fuels. Divest McGill presented the case for fossil fuel divestment at that university’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility. Meanwhile in the 6ix, Toronto held a rally at the University of Toronto to signal support for fossil fuel divestment ahead of recommendations by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels that are expected soon. Similarly, Boston University is waiting on recommendations from its Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing.

Delegates from 114 Anglican congregations in the Ottawa area will vote this weekend on whether to follow in the United Church of Canada’s footsteps by divesting from fossil fuels.

Australia made strides in support of fossil fuel divestment this week. The City of Melbourne has barred its $38 million (Australian dollars) portfolio from investments in companies aligned with fossil fuels. Simultaneously, the National Tertiary Education Union became Australia’s first union to divest from fossil fuels. Another big Aussie divestment announcement came from the Australian Academy of Science, which will also go fossil free.

Finally, it will become easier for U.S. pension funds to divest. The U.S. Department of Labor has issued new interpretive guidance that will give pension funds greater space to make socially responsible investment decisions, for example through fossil fuel divestment.

5. Anti-Haze Efforts Continue to Target Firms

Calls for boycotts of forest-burning palm oil producers to end ongoing haze in Southeast Asia were recently accompanied by legal action when Singapore’s National Environment Agency began legal action under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act against Singapore-listed company Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP), as well as four other Indonesian forms. Similarly, several businesses in Singapore have refused to sell APP products.

6. Boycott Used as a Tactic by Police Union Rebuttal to U.S. Black Lives Matter Movement

Some police unions in the U.S. have called for boycotts of Tarantino films after the director said that some officers have murdered innocent civilians at a rally in Manhattan to protest police shootings. Supporters of the boycott are concerned that inflammatory rhetoric will put police officers at risk, while proponents of Tarantino’s comments insist that highlighting the endemic problem of police brutality, especially against African Americans, is essential to address the problem.  

Bill Gates: Fossil Fuel Divestment a False Solution; Humanity Should Innovate its Way Out of Climate Change

The Atlantic recently published an article interviewing Bill Gates, who is arguing for a dramatic increase in investment to innovate for fossil free energy. 

Bill Gates wants innovation to drive humanity's response to climate change through a big investment push for technological innovation to arrive at a carbon-free energy source. Specifically, Gates wants this push to begin with government-funded R&D, which would then be followed up by spin-off investment from private actors that can afford to take big risks. He called on the U.S. government to triple its budget for energy research to $18 billion USD annually. 

Gates notes that current levels of investment in clean energy are nowhere near where they need  to be in order to avoid the disastrous consequences of climate change. The reason for this, he argues, is that private sector R&D for clean energy is too low because, frankly, there is no fortune to be made by investing in fossil fuel innovation: "the incentive to invest is quite limited, because unlike digital products - where you get very rapid adoption and so, within the period that your trade secret stays secret or your patent gives you a 20-year exclusive, you can reap incredible returns - almost everything that's been invented in energy was invented more than 20 years before it got scaled usage." Gates acknowledges that the government doesn't always pick the right 'winners' but notes that it is no worse at this than the private sector: "How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them." 

Gates argues that strategies like divestment promote false solutions and are counterproductive -because the only viable way to go off fossil fuels is through a real alternative. Divestment campaigners have since reacted against the criticism. For example, Tim Ratcliffe at argued that divestment was a necessary step to weaken the political power of the fossil fuel industry, and as such was an important prerequisite to moving forward on climate action.


Canadian Seafood Increasingly Sustainable, According to Top International Eco-label's Annual Report

When purchasing sustainable products most people rely on eco-labels: images posted on packaging that indicate that the producer of that item has adhered to a given set of criteria on the environmental impact of production. Not all eco-labels are alike, however, so it is important to ensure that the one you go by uses third party certification and has rigorous standards. 

When purchasing sustainable seafood there may be several different eco-labels available to you, but the one that is largest and most well-known is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC now accounts for about 10% of global wild caught seafood (as compared to aquaculture/farmed fish) but this proportion is often much higher in developed countries, where the demand for certified fish is higher. In Canada, for example, 67% of domestic wild catch seafood is MSC certified.

See that blue label? That's what MSC certification looks like!

See that blue label? That's what MSC certification looks like!

In addition to being the most widely used eco-label, MSC is also well-known for its rigorous standards (although it has been criticized for focusing too narrowly on the sustainability of fish stocks instead of the overall environmental impact of fisheries and the fish supply chain, as well as for having a process that is too burdensome for small fisheries and fisheries in developing countries). If you are looking for sustainably caught seafood, the MSC is probably your best bet: it is the most likely to actually be available in stores near you and has standards that are reasonably stringent and evaluated impartially, based on evidence. 

The MSC is noteworthy today because it just released its annual report documenting the eco-label's fifteenth year since the first fishery was MSC certified. Some of the highlights from the annual report are included below.

The Highlights of MSC's Annual Report


  • MSC certified 40 new fisheries -- which is pretty good when you consider that a total of 256 fisheries are MSC certified, in 36 countries. There are 34 500 businesses that sell MSC certified products (which came from those certified fisheries) to consumers in 97 countries. 
  • MSC added the first certified fisheries in China and India. Although most MSC certified fisheries exist in developing countries, the MSC emphasized the strides that it has taken to improve accessibility to developing country fisheries. A total of 19 developing country fisheries are certified, with a further 11 in assessment.
  • IKEA committed to sell only MSC certified seafood in all of its stores globally. MSC has previously grown the eco-label by securing similar pledges, for example from Unilever and Walmart.
  • For some species, MSC certification is now the norm: for example, nearly half of whitefish (i.e. cod, haddock, pollock) and just over half of wild-caught salmon is MSC certified.  


  • Lobster certification grew a lot this year, largely because key lobster fisheries in Canada became certified -- 97% of Canadian Atlantic lobster is now MSC certified!
  • MSC also highlighted the strides that the fisheries of the North Atlantic and the Arctic have taken since the 1992 collapse of the Grand Banks cod fishery in Newfoundland. Now these fisheries are "world leaders in sustainability and good management", according to MSC.
  • Overall, 73% of Canadian fisheries (by value) are engaged in the MSC process.


  • This year MSC completed its review process of the Fisheries Standard after two years of consultations with experts, NGOs and other actors. 
  • Based on the new Standard, the cumulative impacts that fisheries have on non-target species must be taken into account during fishery assessments. So, if a fishery that catches fish A is sustainable for fish A but creates adverse effects for the population of fish B, that is now something that is taken into account.
  • The Standard introduces new measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems like cold water coral. 
  • There is now a clearer MSC policy against forced labor: companies that have been successfully prosecuted for forced labor violations cannot be MSC certified. This was a response to rising public concern about forced labour in the seafood industry, based on US government reporting and media attention on the issue.


  • MSC surveyed 9000 seafood buyers from 15 countries across Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America. 
  • 41% of respondents look for sustainably sourced fish products, up from 36% in 2010. 
  •  33% recognize the MSC label, up from 25% in 2010.


Well, they did, anyway. MSC was part of a campaign led by the World Wildlife Fund UK to celebrate Earth Hour 2015 through #fishface selfies. A brief search of the hashtag now suggests that it is no longer primarily associated with environmental solidarity, however....


  • 75% of MSC revenue came from licensing the eco-label, while most of the rest emanated from donations
  •  Expenditures were split in roughly even proportion between three activities: policy and maintaining the Standard; education and awareness; and fisheries servicing and outreach. 

Major Pollution Case Against Chevron Will Go On, Supreme Court of Canada Rules

Today the Supreme Court of Canada released its judgment on Chevron v. Yaiguaje (a group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs), dismissing Chevron’s appeal that Canada does not have jurisdiction to hear the case. This means that the case will go on for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs affected by pollution arising from oil extraction in the 1970s-1990s. Below, I explain the ruling and its context.

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Norway Divests from Destructive Palm Oil Activities in Rainforests

Norway has announced that its sovereign wealth fund will add four large Asian companies to its list of excluded companies - companies in which it will not invest - for the damage that their palm oil activities cause to tropical rainforests. The country's sovereign wealth fund is the world's largest (worth around $1 trillion USD) and controls 1.3% of all stocks worldwide. It is managed by over 50 managers and invests primarily in Europe, North America, and Asia and Oceania. Specifically, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund will no longer invest in Posco (produces steel), Daewoo International (a subsidiary of Posco), Genting (casinos and resorts), and IJM (construction, palm oil plantations, infrastructure, property development/management). 

This decision was made by Norges Bank (the Norwegian Central Bank) on the recommendation of the Council of Ethics (CoE), appointed by the Ministry of Finance. The Council of Ethics makes recommendations based on a set of Guidelines for Observation and Exclusion of Companies from the Government Pension Fund Global, which was adopted by the Ministry of Finance in 2014. The four companies above have been added to a list of over 50 other companies that are to be excluded from investment. Norway has also divested from companies for their involvement in: anti-personnel landmines, the production of cluster munitions, the production of nuclear arms, the production of tobacco, serious or systematic human rights violations, severe environmental damages, violations of the rights of individuals in situations of war, and "other particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms". Notably, at least two Canadian extractive companies are on Norway's list of excluded companies: Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (added 6 December 2011 for violations of "fundamental ethical norms") and Barrick Gold Corp. (added 30 November 2008 for severe environmental damages). 

This recent decision to divest is based on warnings issued by the CoE. Norway's sovereign wealth fund previously had almost $300 million USD in investments in these four companies. 

  • Posco and Daewoo: CoE warning issued over the conversion of tropical forest into palm oil plantations in West Papua, Indonesia. Posco has a controlling interest (over 60%) in Daewoo and Daewoo, in turn, owns 85% of the Indonesian plantation company, PT BIA, that is converting rainforest to palm oil plantations. Plantation development began in 2012 and is expected to be finalized in 2018. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund owned 0.9% of Posco (worth $198 million USD at the end of 2014) and 0.3% of Daewoo ($9 million USD).
  • Genting: CoE warning issued for the development of palm oil plantations in Indonesia. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund owned 0.4% of Genting ($41 million USD).
  • IJM: CoE warning issued regarding the development of palm oil plantations in Indonesia by IJM's subsidiary, IJM Plantations. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund owned 1.6% of IJM ($46 million USD).