The trade union and Norwegian People’s Aid reviewed the funds provided by Norwegian banks to their clients, to see whether they were invested in companies with operations in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Does your bank benefit from the occupation of Palestine?” reads the campaign, which was first launched in 2020. It has been given new life after the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip in recent months.
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in Overview The trade union and Norwegian People’s Aid have braced together, and as many as 98 of 101 Norwegian banks appear to be profiting from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
What Fagforbundet failed to disclose in the campaign is that they themselves have an agreement with several Sparebank 1, which is one of the banks that was not approved in the survey.
Nettavisen has gone through all 101 banks in the overview. It turned out that 98 of them invest in companies and funds that help finance the occupied territories in Palestine.
Among the Norwegian banks that were not approved in the survey are Nordea, DNB and several branches of Sparebank 1.
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According to the trade union, many customers contacted their banks because they wanted to send a clear signal:
– There are many people who send us the answers they received from their bank and they are not satisfied, especially those banks that only provide other people’s money. It gives the impression of abdicating responsibility, and they wonder what more they can do. The Confederation of Trade Unions and Norwegian People’s Aid are in contact with the banks and are following up on the individual bank, TUC advisor Ingon Eriksen tells Netafsen.
This is what the banks say
Small banks rarely have their own money management. But also larger banks, such as SpareBank 1, point to money providers when faced with questions from Nettavisen.
– Sparebank 1 is not a fund manager, but a distributor. We offer mutual funds on the fund platform from different managers that clients choose from when investing. Banks are therefore a distributor of products and not a manager. Therefore, banks are not investing in the underlying companies mentioned in this campaign, Tony Mesna, press officer at Sparebank 1 Group, tells Nettavisen.
The trade union and Norwegian People’s Aid wrote in the campaign that banks could not, however, abdicate their responsibility by referring to the providers of funds.
We conduct ongoing evaluations of the funds we distribute. Mesna says: If it is true that any of this money violates human rights, we will take action.
This is how DnB and Nordea are responding
This is how DnB responds: “DNB has received a number of inquiries in relation to the Trade Union Confederation and the Norwegian People’s Aid campaign. These emails are standard text, indicating that the client has looked at the campaign page and is happy to see that DNB does not invest in the majority of companies on the list.” “Where the client requests to know why not all companies have invested, companies are excluded. As of today, we are only aware of two clients who have reported wanting to change bank in connection with the campaign.”
– Carrie Fardal-Ries, Communications Consultant at DnB
This is how Nordea responds: “Customer service received 4-5 inquiries over the weekend, and we also recorded that some people raised the issue in our comments section on Facebook. We are taking a close look at the information from Norwegian People’s Aid and the Trade Union Confederation, and we evaluate all our properties with the information we have.” If the companies in which Nordea invests are found to be violating standards related to human rights, the matter will be assessed by the Nordea Committee for Responsible Investments. If Nordea believes that the company does not deal with or explain the matter well enough, we can isolate or exclude the company from Our investment portfolios.
– Henrik Arneberg, Head of Content at Nordea
This is what the union says
“Our partner SpareBank 1 gives you, as a member, good terms for everything you need from a bank, such as loans, savings, insurance, everyday banking and pensions.” Lovavor website.
As a guild member, LOfavør is included.
Nettavisen Fagforbundet asked how cooperation with Sparebank 1 is evaluated, when the bank is among the banks that were not approved in its own investigations. They answer with the following:
– There are only three banks out of about 100 banks in our campaign, which do not provide funds with holdings in the 11 companies we have in our campaign. More than 50 percent of banks provide funds with stakes in 10 out of 11 companies. SpareBank 1 offers funds with holdings in three or four companies, says Injon Eriksen of the trade union.
The four companies are part of Sparebank Part 1: CEMEX, HPE, Caterpillar and Alstom.
Read more about these companies at the bottom of the issue.
In a separate response to the union, Sparebank 1 clarified the companies involved. They must have taken up this matter with the fund managers mentioned above, and are considering whether to freeze the funds, according to Eriksen.
She adds that the union was only in dialogue with Sparebank 1 Østlandet.
– Eriksen confirms that our jointly owned subsidiary of Sparebank 1 Gruppen, the fund manager ODIN, does not invest in these companies.
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If they really believe that what these banks are doing is so problematic, why haven’t they taken the initiative to regulate their cooperative relationships? This case has a comedic character, says Vibjörn Selbeck to Nettavisen.
Selbeck is editor-in-chief of the conservative Christian newspaper Dagen. He is not satisfied with the union’s justifications for cooperation:
– This is a classic example of double standards. Selbeck says the union encourages customers to hold banks and investors accountable, but also cooperates with banks they warn about.
Selbeck, an outspoken friend of Israel, was initially skeptical of such campaigns. He believes it would be difficult if one had to boycott all companies with links to oppressive regimes.
– These are large international companies. Naturally, they are included in the portfolios of serious investment funds. Caterpillar, for example, is one of the largest construction machinery manufacturers in the world. Should they be boycotted completely, because they contribute to the demolition of the occupied territories?
– Israel has a very strong economy. He adds that if you were to actually start boycotting all Israeli products like this, you would end up with only a few products left.
Three banks were approved
In the campaign, Fagforbundet singled out 11 large companies that make money from, or contribute to financing, goods and services in the territories occupied by Israel.
Caterpillar sells, among other things, bulldozers to Israel that are used to demolish Palestinian homes and destroy Palestinian land and infrastructure, as well as to build the Israeli so-called “security wall” or separation wall in the West Bank.
HP supplied the biometric system that controls Palestinian traffic in the occupied territories.
CEMEX operates stone quarries, while Alstom is part of the light rail project from West Jerusalem to illegal settlements, according to the campaign.
– There are only three banks that have received a smile from us: Cultura Sparebank, Obos-banken and Sareskillingsbanken, says Eriksen.
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