Sweden leads by example in reporting and investmentJune 2008
The mandatory requirement for state-owned companies in Sweden to produce an annual sustainability report will not be extended to listed businesses, the deputy prime minister has confirmed.
In a private interview at the Global Reporting Initiative’s biennial conference, Maud Olofsson, Sweden’s enterprise and energy minister, told EP that she hoped the regulation, which affects 55 companies wholly or part-owned by the state, would set the private sector an example, but it would not be more widely applied.
‘I have done this in my role as an owner of the companies and I think other owners should do the same. But I will not pass any law widening mandatory non-financial reporting’, she said.
Last month officials met the CEOs and chairmen of the state-owned companies, which include TeliaSonera, Vattenfall and Nordea Bank, to ‘start the education process’ (EP9, issue 8, p1). The Swedish National Audit Office will monitor compliance with the new law and report annually to parliament. Olofsson added that officials from other countries had expressed interest in mandatory reporting, including Austria, Norway, and also China, with whom Sweden signed a memorandum of understanding on CSR in 2007. Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt recently announced that in September 2008 a Sino-Swedish Corporate Social Responsibility Child Rights Competence Centre would open in China, where over 500 Swedish companies operate.
In a separate move involving the Swedish state, 13 companies have been named in the current SRI engagement efforts of the buffer funds AP1–AP4 of Sweden’s national pension system, which is one of Europe’s biggest institutional investors.
The funds, which have capital of SEK900billion ($150bn, £76bn, €97bn), selected the companies from 3500 in which they invest (see box) to ‘conduct an active dialogue... in order to make them take action’.
The first report of the funds’ Ethical Council, set up in early 2007, identifies half as showing ‘weak positive development’. All the dialogues, for which the council says ‘patience’ is needed, relate to breaches of international conventions signed by Sweden.
Halliburton was the only company removed from the list last year. The oil and gas technology business has sold the subsidiary at the centre of bribery allegations and has assumed responsibility for any legal and financial consequences.
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