Norway ethical council recommends exclusion of Innophos
The Council on Ethics of the Norwegian government pension fund recommended blacklisting of the US/Mexican fertilizer producer Innophos due to phosphate imports from Western Sahara. "Particular serious violation of fundamental ethical norms", the council concluded.
"Companies buying phosphate from Western Sahara are in reality supporting Morocco’s presence in the territory, since the phosphate is sold by the state-owned Moroccan company OCP and it must be assumed that the revenues generated by the operation largely flow to the Moroccan State. In its present form, OCP’s extraction of phosphate resources in Western Sahara constitutes a serious violation of norms. This is due both to the fact that the wishes and interests of the local population are not being respected and to the fact that the operation is contributing to the continuance of the unresolved international legal situation, and thus Morocco’s presence and resource exploitation in a territory over which it does not have legitimate sovereignty. In the view of the Council on Ethics, a concrete, mutually beneficial relationship exists between OCP’s violations of norms and companies’ purchases of phosphate from Western Sahara. The fact that Innophos has purchased phosphate minerals from Western Sahara over several years establishes closer ties with OCP than an occasional buyer of phosphate, and strengthens their degree of contribution to OCP’s violations of norms. Such long-term contracts also increase the risk that the company may contribute to future violations of norms" the Council wrote.
The conclusion of the council did not lead to an actual exclusion of the company from the pension fund, as the fund's financial managers in either case had already divested the Innophos shares as the year had come to an end. The Norwegian Ministry of Finances, formally taking the decision, thus only "took note of" the recommendation, instead of concluding with an exclusion. This practice of publishing recommendations in cases where divestment has already been done, follows brand new routines from the pension fund from this year. The recommendation on Innophos was published at the same time as five other recommendations, involved in other controversies globally, but without issuing an accompanying press release. Details about the six recommendations appear in the Annual Report of the Council on Ethics.
Innophos is one of the biggest importers of phosphates from Western Sahara, as appearing in the Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) report P for Plunder (2014). The importing company in Mexico is owned by the US registered Innophos Holdings. The company has not responded to letters from WSRW, and invests heavily in lobbying the US government position on Morocco/Western Sahara.
At 31 December 2013, the Norwegian government owned 0.6 percent of Innophos's shares.
The conclusion of recommending an exclusion of Innophos Holdings from the government pension was concluded on 26 Sept 2014. The Council on Ethics notes that Innophos had not responded to any letters from the council.
WSRW is aware of several other ethically concerned investors which have excluded Innophos from its portfolios over the last months.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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