The Norwegian government has excluded the Malaysian timber giant Samling from its pension fund on ethical grounds. Samling is logging the last remaining forests of the hunter-gatherer Penan tribe in Borneo.
Norway’s Ministry of Finance sold its shares in Samling on the recommendation of its pension fund’s Council on Ethics, which investigated Samling’s activities and found evidence of systematic illegal logging and ‘extensive damage to forests and the environment.’
Announcing the divestment from Samling and two other companies, Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen said, ‘The decision to exclude these companies… is based on the Council on Ethics assessment that they are contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity.’
Samling has devastated much of the land of the Penan tribe of Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of Borneo. The Penan rely on the forest for food and shelter, and its destruction by logging companies has left them impoverished.
In December 2009, five Penan communities filed two lawsuits against Samling subsidiaries. A case by other Penan communities has been pending since 1998.
One Penan man said, ‘Samling is trying to log all the trees in our forest. When they enter the area we will lose everything.’
Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘If all responsible investors, particularly those using public money, avoided companies which violate tribal peoples’ rights and destroy their lands, it would send a clear and long overdue signal to corporations around the world. These companies should simply be boycotted, so the Norwegian disinvestment is a very good step in the right direction.’