The ownership policy for state companies encourages companies in the state company portfolio to comply with the ten principles of the UN Global Compact, the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Swedish National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights aims to translate the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into practical action at national level.
The rights perspective is also one of two high-priority perspectives in the Swedish development cooperation and means that "human rights and democracy must be seen as fundamental to development".
In recent decades, democracy and human rights have been strengthened in many regions around the world. However, developments have taken on a negative turn in recent years. In many places, human rights have even been restricted and progress has stalled.
Most of Swedfund’s portfolio companies operate in countries and markets where respect for and compliance with human rights poses a challenge. To guide systematic human rights issues in investment activities, Swedfund has introduced a process to identify, mitigate and account for negative impacts on human rights. The ambition is to apply this approach when reaching decisions concerning new investments, during the value-adding phase and in connection with companies in the exit phase. Today, the process is mainly used in conjunction with direct investments and, to a lesser extent, when investing in financial institutions and funds. Human right risks and impacts are already taken into account in the first stage of the investment process by preparing a categorisation of the project as regards human rights based on country, location, operating conditions, type of business and business partners.
Swedfund then pursues a dialogue with the portfolio companies concerning the situation in the country concerned and any human rights violations that are occurring.
During screening, i.e. stage two of the analysis phase of a possible investment, a risk analysis is carried out during which human rights risks and impacts are analysed in more detail. This risk analysis is also carried out on companies in the exit phase. Depending on the outcome of this analysis, a decision is then made as to whether or not a more detailed human rights analysis should be carried out. This is carried out using internal resources or with the support of an external expert. The mitigation of identified risks and impacts is incorporated into the ESGAP (ESG Action Plan), which constitutes part of the investment agreement.
Whistleblower service and complaints mechanism
Swedfund requires all portfolio companies to implement a mechanism for complaints which is open to all stakeholders in accordance with the IFC Performance standards. Swedfund has also established a whistleblower service and will launch a complaints mechanism which can be used by employees, contractors, trainees and others at Swedfund and amongst the companies and funds in which Swedfund invests (Swedfund’s portfolio companies).