Massive Investment Fund Drops Eleven Companies Linked to Destructive Environmental Practices

A massive investment fund, the Government Pension Fund Global in Norway (GPFG), released a report this March that covers its 2015 actions. The report shows that the funding provided for 11 companies that operate in various deforesting activities like palm oil production and coal extraction has been cancelled, adding to the 114 companies that had been dropped since 2012 for environmental concerns. Previously, the focus for divestment seemed to be harmful practices in energy­based mining like tar sands and coal. These issues remain, but deforestation was a major issue in 2015 even in the mainstream media conversation. The smoke over southeast Asia due to slash­and­burn agriculture received quite a bit of attention late last year. The report comes after the Norwegian government pulled money from the GPFC in January of this year in response to falling oil prices. It was the first time they had reached into the fund since it was established 20 years ago.

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The move shows that the GPFG will not hesitate to divest from companies that harm the environment, although they still invest billions of dollars in numerous companies that propel deforestation and have questionable or downright negative impacts on the ecology of the places in which they operate. Divestment does reveal some forward motion though. A few weeks after the report was released, the IOI Group in Malaysia ­ one of the largest palm oil producers in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was dropped by the Roundtable when they were found to be using unsustainable production practices. Also in March, actor Leonardo DiCaprio visited Indonesia and posted pictures to his Instagram account with captions that brought attention to palm oil and deforestation. As forests continue to be cleared, not just in Southeast Asia, more attention is being given to these issues. All of these approaches ­ advocacy for better practices by celebrities, certifications of sustainability, and divestment from harmful practices ­ work toward slowing deforestation. However, just as producers must change their ways, consumers must become more aware of the impacts of their purchases and how products get to store shelves.

This Landsat 7 image shows the difference between plantation and intact forest in part of Malaysian Borneo. Source: NASA, May 27, 2003.

This Landsat 7 image shows the difference between plantation and intact forest in part of Malaysian Borneo. Source: NASA, May 27, 2003.

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