Norway’s $1.3 trillion wealth fund blacklists 15 companies as part of efforts to fight unethical conduct at some of the most powerful corporations


Norway’s $1.3 trillion wealth fund expects to keep its existing fossil-fuel holdings as the world’s biggest sovereign investor bets it can bring about change from within the industry to fight carbon emissions.

“We have no further plans to exit fossil fuels,” Chief Governance and Compliance Officer Carine Smith Ihenacho said on Thursday, after the fund published details of 15 companies it blacklisted in 2020. “Part of the assessments that were made was precisely that we should be owners of larger, integrated energy companies, and contribute as owners in order for them to meet the transition to a low-carbon society in a good way.”

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The Oslo-based fund generated $123 billion in returns last year, marking its second-best performance ever thanks in large part to tech stocks. Some of its biggest losses, however, were tied to holdings of oil companies and exiting stocks focused on oil exploration and production. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Nicolai Tangen has made clear he wants to focus more on sustainability to fight everything from pollution to corruption and sexism.

The fund said the 15 stocks it excluded from its portfolio last year were singled out based on ethical considerations ranging from human rights violations to severe environmental damage. It exited another 32 firms due to its assessment of basic environmental, social and governance risks, it said, without naming the companies.

Built from Norway’s North Sea oil and gas riches, the fund holds about 1.5% of all listed companies globally.

The fund invested in 225 companies in the oil and gas sector last year, down from 311 in 2019. Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc were among the worst-performing investments, it said.

Net Zero

While the fund wants the companies it invests in to have clear targets for emissions reductions, it hasn’t explicitly asked them to reach net zero emissions by 2050, according to Ihenacho. The companies’ goals still have to be compatible with the Paris Agreement, with the fund focusing on their planned path toward the targets, she said in an interview.

“Our expectations are well anchored towards zero in 2050,” Ihenacho said. “What’s important to us is to understand how the companies think they will get there. One thing is to say that there should be zero in 2050. We are concerned with the short-term and medium-term and long-term goals. We believe this is just as important.”

Asked about a recent adoption of portfolio-warming metrics by the French insurer and investor Axa SA, Ihenacho said that rising temperatures “is just one” of the target figures the fund includes in its assessment of climate risks.

Here’s the full list of 2020 exclusions:

Earlier exclusions of Drax Group Plc, AECOM and Texwinca Holdings Ltd were revoked, while four companies including BHP Group Ltd were placed on an observation list.

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