The Council on Ethics recommends that the companies Compagnie de l’Odet SE and Bolloré SE be excluded from investment by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global due to the risk that the companies are contributing to serious and systematic human rights abuses. The recommendation relates primarily to working conditions at oil palm plantations in Cameroon and their consequences for local communities.

Cie de l’Odet is the controlling owner of Bolloré, which has significant ownership interests in the companies Socfin, Socfinaf og Socapalm which operates oil palm plantations in Cameroon.

The Council on Ethics’ investgations into Socapalm’s plantation operations have revealed numerous and in some cases serious labour rights violations, including rape, sexual violence and harassment of women by supervisors and security guards at the plantation. Socapalm’s workforce are mainly contract workers or day labourers. Almost none of them have an employment contract, they earn less than the legal minimum wage, have their pay docked for social benefits they do not receive, and can be hired and fired at will. Moreover, Socapalm has extended the plantation to areas belonging to local communities and made it difficult for them to access their properties, which also weakens their livelihoods. Similar abuses and sexual harassment of women and female workers have been reported for many years at a number of Socfin’s plantations in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The companies maintain that they hold minority stakes in Socfin and therefore have no influence over how the plantations are operated. The the lack of formal control is of little significance to the Council’s assessment. The Council emphasises that Cie de l’Odet has controlling interest in Bolloré, that Bolloré has, and has always had, a material ownership interest in Socfin, and that Bolloré’s senior executives have served on Socfin’s board of directors for more than 30 years. This indicates that Bolloré should have sufficient influence to improve the situation at the plantations if the company so wished. Neither Cie de l’Odet nor Bolloré seem to acknowledge the risk of contributing to serious norm violations relating to the plantation business. The Council concludes that there is an unacceptable risk that Cie de l’Odet and Bolloré will continue to contribute to serious and systematic human rights abuses in the future.

The Council issued its recommendation on 19 March 2024. Norges Bank announced its decision to follow up on the companies through active ownership.

Please find the Council’s recommendation here.