The Council on Ethics of the Swedish National AP-funds signals its expectations for tech giants on human rights

The Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds (AP-funds) has issued a new statement of its expectations of global tech companies on human rights. The expectations demand that tech giants reinforce measures to respect human rights and fully align their work with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights.

The Council on Ethics has been instrumental, in cooperation with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, in developing human rights expectations for tech giants. Based on the expectations the Council has also initiated engagement with tech giants on human rights together with a larger group of international investors.

Today, tech companies are integral to global society. Their platforms are used daily by billions of people. The Internet, mobile phones and social media are part of the fabric of our everyday lives. With expert input from the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Council on Ethics has identified what are reasonable human rights expectations of companies such as Facebook, Google (Alphabet) and Twitter. Such companies have grown rapidly in a short time. Their platforms have brought many gains in access to information and transparency. However, they also entail new challenges linked to complex issues such as the collection, use and commercialization of personal data, extremism and terrorism, electoral manipulation and severe impacts on vulnerable and at risk groups, such as children and human rights defenders.

The Council on Ethics has therefore, in cooperation with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, produced a document for the tech sector outlining its long-term expectations of how the sector should work strategically on human rights.

The purpose of this document is to serve as a platform for the Council on Ethics and for other investors, to conduct a more constructive and effective dialogue with the tech sector regarding the companies' responsibility for and impacts on human rights.

John Howchin, Secretary-General of the Council on Ethics, said:

“We need a broader discussion on the corporate responsibility of tech companies and respect for fundamental human rights. It is still a relatively "young" sector that in a short time has grown rapidly and has a wide impact.

With this, many difficult issues have followed. We do not have all the answers to these questions as it is in many ways a new playingfield we have in front of us, but we know from our experience of engaging with other sectors over the years that difficult questions can be addressed if you work in a structured way with the problems. Our goal is for this document to be a platform for that work. Not only for us and other investors but also for other stakeholders who are involved in the issues. ”

Eva Grambye, Deputy Executive Director The Danish Institute for Human Rights, said:

“Tech giants’ human rights impacts are wide-ranging and include impacts linked to the gathering, use and commercialisation of personal data and content moderation. Risks to human rights are enshrined in tech giants’ business models, corporate governance and incentive structures.

To counteract such risks, we recommend that human rights considerations are integrated into tech giants’ business strategies, policies and planning. It is therefore very positive to see Council on Ethics of the AP-funds send such a strong signal to the tech giants. Financial institutions have a responsibility to respect human rights and address human rights abuses and they should use their leverage towards the companies in their portfolio.”

A larger group of investors has been engaged during the preparation of the document and has begun, together with the Council, to engage with the tech companies regarding these expectations:

APG, AXA Investment Management, Church of England Pensions Board, Church Commissioners of England, COMGEST, Kempen, Legal & General Investment Management, LGPS Central, New Zealand Super Fund, Robeco, Royal London Asset Management, USS

The expectations document is available for download here

For more information, please contact;

John Howchin, Secretary-General for the Council on Ethics, +46 8 – 555 17 176, john.howchin@councilonethics.org

Christina Olivecrona, Chairman Council on Ethics 2020 , + 46 31 – 704 29 00, christina.olivecrona@ap2.se

The Council on Ethics works on the basis of the AP Funds' mission to create high returns at low risk for current and future pensioners and the common values ​​- to proactively work for sustainable development, act and make demands for transparency and positive changes. The Council on Ethics works both preventively and reactively with global companies in the AP funds' portfolios. The starting point is that well-managed and responsible companies over time provide higher returns at lower risk. The goal of the Council on Ethics' work is for companies and industries to work systematically, structured and transparently with sustainability.

Publicerad den 15 december 2020