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Norway’s sovereign wealth fund blacklists G4S

By Lawrence Gash

Ethics body finds security firm implicit in human rights abuses

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has blacklisted all holdings of shares in G4S citing concerns of human rights violations in the British company’s workforce in Qatar and the UAE.

The Scandinavian country’s Council of Ethics, which monitors investments in the country’s £860bn ($1.1tn, €1tn) Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), stated there was an “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to systematic human rights violations”.

The body said it had not officially considered whether G4S used forced labour, but it observed that “the company’s practice – in the worse cases – could place workers under constraint”.

GPFG owned 2.33 per cent of G4S’s shares at the end of 2018, worth about 784m Norwegian krone (£66m, $84.84m, €77.12m), but has since sold all of them.

The Council of Ethics focused on G4S’ “extensive use” of migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal and across the Middle East. G4S is listed on the FTSE 250 and provides security services in over 90 countries, employing around 570,000 people.

The council stated the company had not done enough to stop alleged abuses having already conducted its own internal audits. G4S employs 18,000 migrant workers in Qatar and the UAE as well as 11,100 people in Saudi Arabia.

The wealth fund criticised the restrictive labour practices of these countries where passports are taken from migrant workers who are often paid less than previously agreed. It stated: “Workers have paid recruitment fees to work for the company, and workers have taken out loans in their home country to be able to pay the fees. When the workers arrive in the Gulf, they must spend a significant part of their salary to pay off this debt, and therefore have little chance of leaving.”

A spokeswoman for the security company said: “We carried out a robust investigation into the issues raised by the Council on Ethics into G4S’s employment practices in Qatar and the UAE. We are making good progress on our action plan to reinforce our high standards in relation to employee recruitment and welfare provisions in the Middle East.”

G4S shares have dropped 2.35 per cent by afternoon trading standing at £203.50.

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