In a divestment valued at 256 million euros, the Norwegian government pension fund has blacklisted Australian company Incitec Pivot and the US/Canadian company Potash last year due to their phosphate imports from occupied Western Sahara.
Western Sahara was invaded by Morocco in 1975 when the colonial power, Spain, withdrew. The country still has not had a vote of self-determination. Following a 1991 UN-brokered cease-fire between the West Saharan independence forces and Morocco, large numbers of West Saharans still live in refugee camps in neighbouring Algeria. The West Saharan government in exile and their international supporters have called for and end to the exploitation of West Saharan resources such as phosphates by Morocco, and have raised the alarm about deteriorating human rights in the occupied territory.
The Swedish government pension funds have followed their Norwegian counterparts. It states in their press release that engagement with the two companies did not lead to changed practice despite several years of effort, and that the fund's ethical council "...has therefore chosen to terminate the dialogue and issued a recommendation to each fund to exclude the companies shares from their investment portfolios. All four funds have elected to follow the recommendation".
Incitec Pivot imports phosphate into Australia to manufacture fertiliser. Their competitors CSBP (Wesfarmers) and Impact have advised the Australia Western Sahara Association that they have stopped importing phosphate from Western Sahara.
The Incitec Pivot AGM will be held on the 19th December at 2pm Level 2 Melbourne Exhibition Centre. If Incitec Pivot Shareholders are not concerned about the ethical principal of exploiting the natural resources of Western Sahara then maybe consideration should be given to the growing global consumer demand for ethical investment. CSBP modified its manufacturing plant so as not to be reliant on one supplier. Why not Incitec Pivot?
Gunns Ltd ignored public expectations and this was reflected in their share price and the fate of the company.
Australian superannnuation holders are encouraged to contact their superannuation trustees and raise concerns regarding the continuing human rights violations and theft of resources from Western Saharan peoples. Ask your superannuation to follow the principled stance of Australian Christian superannuation, Norwegian and Swedish government pension funds.
[Ron Guy is a member of Australian Unions for Western Sahara.]