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Norway – SOE

2. The State Duty to Protect Human Rights

2.3 State ownership and practice for supporting the business sector

Principle 4 concerns the business activities of state-owned enterprises and enterprises that receive economic support or other services from state agencies:

State ownership [page 21]

In 2014, the Government presented a white paper on the importance of ownership for diversity and value creation (Meld. St. 27 (2013–2014)), which discusses the state’s expectations of enterprises in which it has a direct ownership interest, including expectations based on the UN Guiding Principles. The expectation that state-owned enterprises will exercise CSR is based on the belief that this is desirable in itself and that it helps to maintain the state’s shareholder value. Enterprises are exposed to different levels of risk and face different challenges. This means that they can adapt the “comply or explain” principle and the materiality principle to their own operations. The “comply or explain” principle applies to cases where a company’s practice deviates from the state’s expectations. There may be good reasons for this, and the board of directors must provide a public explanation of the reasons for the lack of compliance. The materiality principle implies that companies work with and report on factors that are of major importance to the way its operations affect people, communities, climate and the environment. The Government has noted that there is a need to focus more strongly on the responsibility of the boards also of enterprises in which the state has an ownership interest and their approach to CSR, including human rights. We believe that greater involvement by company boards will improve risk management and thereby help to maintain shareholder value. The follow-up of CSR and human rights performance is conducted through the owner dialogue in quarterly and/or annual meetings on CSR. In special cases it may be necessary to follow the company’s activities more closely. The work of companies and boards on CSR, including human rights, is taken into account in the election of board members.

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