Investors Demand More from Tech Giants

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Swedish state pension finds AP1, AP2, AP3 and AP4 and their joint sustainability arm, the Council on Ethics (AP-fondernas etikråd), already have an impressive track record in engaging with tech giants on social issues. Back in 2020, together with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Council published a list of demands and expectations, Tech giants and human rights: Investor expectations, highlighting, among other issues, the companies’ role in safeguarding privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, elections, public and political discourse.

    Since then, the importance of this topic has hardly diminished. Firm believers in the effectiveness of a collaborative approach, on 23 March, the Council announced that it has managed to rally a group of institutional investors to jointly engage tech giants with the aim of strengthening their management of human rights risks and impacts. Apart from the AP funds, the group, representing some EUR 6.4 trillion in combined assets under management, features both asset managers and asset owners, including ACTIAM, Amundi, APG, Aviva Investors, AXA Investment Managers, Boston Common Asset Management, Candriam, CCLA, Church Commissioners for England, Church of England Pensions Board, Christian Brothers Investment Services, Domini Impact Investments, LLC, Ethos Foundation, Ethos Engagement, Pool International (104 investors), LGPS Central, NY City Comptroller’s Office, PGGM, Railpen, Robeco, Royal London Asset Management, Schroders, Swedbank Robur, Swiss Association for Responsible Investments (11 investors), Universities Superannuation Scheme, Van Lanschot Kempen, and Öhman Fonder.

    The investors intend to actively engage with seven companies: Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Tencent. According to the press release, the primary goal is to ensure that these tech leaders take concrete measures to address operational and human rights risks inherent to their products and business model and to encourage more transparent reporting on the related impacts and efforts.

    “The dialogues will focus on content-related practices pertaining to corporate culture and structures, vulnerable groups (especially children), access to remedy and stakeholder engagement,” comments Magdalena Håkansson, Chair of the Council on Ethics. “The Council on Ethics looks forward to addressing this highly topical and increasingly pertinent topic together with this impressive group of investors.”

    Apart from jeopardising individual human rights, there is an increasing recognition that spreading malicious content and misinformation can have system-level consequences such as hyper-polarisation, discrimination, violence, and erosion of democracy. Given the systemic nature of the challenges related to online content, the investors hope to raise broader discussion and awareness of the risks with the services of these tech companies.

    The collaboration’s activities and results will be publicly reported, and NordSIP will follow this timely initiative’s development.

    Image by NordSIP

    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.

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