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State investments and human rights? The case of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global

Niklas Kreander (Department of Business and Information Technology, University of South-Eastern Norway, Bø, Norway)
Ken McPhail (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK) (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 23 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore how the Norwegian Government incorporated its responsibility for human rights into the investment practices of its Global Pension Fund and how human rights issues were negotiated when exclusion was considered.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on a series of interviews the authors analyse the way in which responsibility for human rights has been translated into the practices of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global.

Findings

The paper documents how a large investment fund used several mechanisms to address human rights risks. The authors demonstrate that different logics among actors sometimes impeded addressing human rights issues. The findings demonstrate that sovereign wealth funds (SWF) can be held accountable for human rights.

Research limitations/implications

The paper illustrates the difficulty of co-operation between actors with different logics. This can result in institutional conflict, but also in positive outcomes for human rights.

Practical implications

Attempts to introduce human rights into state investments may result in increased institutional complexity. The findings indicate that state investors can address human rights issues, but that the ability to do so is diminished where divestment creates political tension.

Social implications

Large investors can influence companies on specific human rights issues.

Originality/value

This is one of the first empirical investigations of the human rights practices of a SWF. The authors contribute to the literatures on accounting and human rights, SWF and institutional theory.

Keywords

Citation

Kreander, N. and McPhail, K. (2019), "State investments and human rights? The case of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 1742-1770. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-01-2017-2830

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited