Norges Bank refers its ownership of Spanish infra firm Ferrovial to ethics panel

Ferrovial acquired Australian detention camp operator earlier this year

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) has referred its 1.72% holding of Ferrovial to its ethics panel after the Spanish infrastructure firm acquired controversial Australian detention camp operator Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services) in June this year.

It comes amid a media campaign launched today by Canberra-based think tank, the Australian Institute.

“We are aware of the issue, and we were not invested in Broadspectrum in the end of 2015,” a Norges Bank spokesman told Responsible Investor. NBIM manages the assets of the giant Government Pension Fund Global; its Ferrovial stake is worth $283m (€267.7m).

The spokesman added: “According to the guidelines for observation and exclusion, we have informed the Council on Ethics about our ownership in Ferrovial.

“We expect companies to respect human rights, and address human rights issues in their business practices.”

Norges has an eight-page set of expectations towards companies and human rights in which it says it bases its practices on internationally recognised standards such as the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.A senior adviser with the pension fund’s council of ethics, Pia Goyer, was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying the council did not comment on specific companies until it had made and published a recommendation about a company.

“We expect companies to respect human rights”

Since the acquisition, Madrid-listed Ferrovial has indicated that Broadspectrum’s controversial operations in Nauru and Manus Island are not a strategic activity and that they would not “not form part of its services offering in the future”.

Australian super fund HESTA divested Broadspectrum, in its former guise, last year for breaching international human rights law. A number of Australian super funds have been engaging with it on human rights concerns.

Ferrovial, which part owns Heathrow Airport in a consortium with leading investors, describes itself as a leader of sustainability on its website. It sits on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and FTSE4Good. It is also signed up to the Global Compact and the CDP.