The Council on Ethics recommends that Honeys Holdings Co Ltd (Honeys) be excluded from investment by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) due to an unacceptable risk that the company is responsible for systematic human rights abuses.

Honeys is a Japanese company that designs, produces and distributes women’s clothes and accessories for women through its own brands in Japan and China. It is also a supplier to other major distributors in Japan. The company owns two garment factories in Myanmar.

Investigations into working conditions at these factories identified numerous labour rights violations, including harassment of workers and serious violations of fire safety and health and safety regulations. The investigations also revealed that, until recently, Honeys employed underage workers on the same terms as adults, widespread and illegal use of daily contracts and that employees are penalised financially for taking sick leave. The Council considers that Honeys actively restricts workers’ freedom of association, by dismissing trade union leaders and members due to their participation in union activity. The company has also filed civil suit and criminal charges against a trade union leader on the grounds of this person’s trade union activities.

Honeys denies many of the alleged norm violations, but also seems to have implemented certain improvements at the factories following the Council’s inspections. The Council attaches importance to the fact that many of the norm violations do not seem to have been rectified, and that follow-up investigations have not corroborated the company’s claims concerning the improvements. In the Council’s opinion, this shows a pattern of behaviour indicating that the norm violations are systematic, and that the company, in practice, does not have a system capable of preventing, uncovering and rectifying labour rights abuses in its operations.

The Council on Ethics issued its recommendation on 25 November 2020. Norge Bank announced its decision to exclude the company from investment by the GPFG on 19 May 2021.