The AP Funds’ ethics council places demands on the tech sector regarding human rights

16 December 2020

The AP Funds’ Council on Ethics (the Council on Ethics) demands that the large tech companies strengthen their work on human rights and to follow the UN’s guiding principles for companies and human rights. The Council on Ethics has been instrumental in developing expectations of the tech companies and has initiated a dialogue with the companies in collaboration with a larger group of international investors.

Today, tech companies are a key part of the global society and their platforms are used daily by billions of people. The Internet, mobile phones and social media are now an integral part of our everyday lives. The Council on Ethics has analyzed what are reasonable expectations about companies such as Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Twitter and more based on the Council on Ethics’ convention-based working model, but also about the UN guidelines for companies and human rights. These companies have grown rapidly in a short time and the platforms have brought with them very positive in the form of availability of information and transparency, but it has also entailed new challenges linked to many complex issues such as collection, use and commercialization of personal data, terrorism, election manipulation and serious consequences for vulnerable and at-risk groups,

The Council on Ethics has therefore, in collaboration with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, produced a document for the tech sector on long-term expectations of how the sector should work strategically on human rights. The purpose of this document is to serve as a platform for the Council on Ethics and for other investors, to conduct a more constructive dialogue with the tech sector regarding the companies’ responsibility for human rights.

John Howchin, Secretary General of the AP Funds Ethics Council;

“The time is ripe for a broader discussion on the corporate responsibility of tech companies and respect for fundamental human rights. It is still a relatively young sector that in a short time has grown rapidly and had a wide impact. With this, many and difficult issues have followed. We do not have all the answers to these questions as it is in many ways a new game plan we have in front of us, but we know from our experience of involvement with other sectors over the years that difficult questions can be addressed if you work in a structured way with the problems. Our goal is for this document to be a platform for that work. Not only for us and other investors but also for other stakeholders who are involved in the issues. ”

Eva Grambye, Vice President of the Danish Institute for Human Rights;

“The impact of technology giants on human rights is extensive and includes effects linked to the collection, use and commercialization of personal data and the moderation of content. Risks around human rights are rooted in the tech companies’ business models, corporate governance and incentive structures. To counteract the risks, we recommend that human rights considerations be integrated into technology giants’ business strategies, policies and planning. It is therefore very positive to see the AP Funds’ ethics council send such a strong signal to these companies. Investors have a responsibility to respect human rights and they must use their opportunities to influence the companies in their portfolio. ”

A larger group of investors is behind the preparation of the document and, together with the AP Funds’ Ethics Council, has begun to engage with the tech companies regarding these expectations;

APG, AXA Investment Management, Church of England Pensions Board, Church Commissioners of England, COMGEST, Kempen, Legal & General Investment Management, LGPS Central, New Zealand Super Fund, Robeco, Royal London Asset Management, USS

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