New report from workshop organized by FoHRC: Food, Human Rights and Corporations.
From the workshop. Photo: UiO
Background and purpose of the workshop-report
In its Annual Report on Responsible Investment in 2018, the Norwegian Bank Investment Management (NBIM) reviewed and presented the dialogue NBIM had with the companies where Norway invests through the Government Pension Fund Global («Oljefondet») in 2018. One of the new initiatives NBIM was initiating was establishing an ownership dialogue with several producers of breast-milk substitutes (BMS). The Lancet estimated in 2016 that 823 000 children under 5 years of age could survive annually if properly breastfed the first years of life.
Although there are several reasons why children are not being breastfed, one major reason is the aggressive and unethical marketing of BMS. BMS companies have for years been under critique for their often unethical marketing methods that easily mislead parents to stop breastfeeding and start using BMS which may negatively impact infants’ health and development.
However, the critique has primarily been targeted towards the companies and not the investors in the companies. Thus the aggressive and often unethical marketing of unhealthy junk foods, especially directed towards children, by large food companies in which NBIM invests, might warrant a similar discussion targeting both companies and investors.
Expert workshop discussion
In a child rights perspective, governments have a key role to play when it comes to regulating marketing practices that may negatively affect children’s health. Any UN Member State that is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to other relevant human rights conventions, is under obligation to protect their children in many ways, including from health-threatening behaviour by third parties.
The Norwegian Cancer Society has taken a first active step to a dialogue with the Norwegian health authorities regarding the way Norway is in dissonance with this principle and how it can more explicitly be implemented in the future. FoHRC wanted to hear about this first step as a basis for discussion about which next steps could pursue the issue.
More about this report
The following parts of the report first provide summaries of the introductions by the three presenters, from Save the Children Norway (keynote talk), the Norwegian Cancer Society, and UNICEF/Geneva.
Their full power point presentations are linked up together with the report at the FoHRC website.
They are followed by a commentary by Bård Anders Andreassen at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, who also sets the issues in the framework of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. This built up to a plenary debate which is summarized in the words of the discussants themselves.