Case story

  • Norway

OECD NCP Norway - ForUM and Friends of the Earth Norway vs Cermaq ASA

2009

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Case Status

The NCP was reformed 1 March 2011, and a panel of four experts and a secretariat of two was established. The case was accepted as a specific instance on 4 March, 2010. 25 months after the claim was submitted and four months after the new NCP took office the specific instance was concluded on 1 July 2011.

ForUM and Friends of the Earth Norway filed a complaint against Cermaq ASA for multiple breaches of the Guidelines arising from the fish farming and fish feed operations of the company’s subsidiary Mainstream.

The complaint alleges that Cermaq ASA has not adequately considered the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada and Chile whose access to resources is threatened by the company’s salmon breeding.

Relevant OECD Guidelines:

  • Part 1 Chapter II Paragraph II.7

  • Part 1 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.4

  • Part 1 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.1 Subparagraph IV.1.A

  • Part 1 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.1 Subparagraph IV.1.D

  • Part 1 Chapter V Paragraph V.2

  • Part 1 Chapter V Paragraph V.3

  • Part 1 Chapter V Paragraph V.4


Story

Cermaq ASA, headquartered in Norway, is one of the world’s largest fish farming and fish feed companies. It is engaged in the breeding and distribution of salmon and trout in Norway, Scotland, Canada, and Chile. The Norwegian government is the majority shareholder in the company.

The Complainants maintain that Cermaq ASA, particularly through its fish-farming subsidiary Mainstream, has breached the OECD Guidelines’ general policies by not taking adequate consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada and Chile whose access to resources is threatened by Cermaq’s salmon breeding activities. The Complainants further maintain that Cermaq has breached the OECD Guidelines’ employment provisions through unfounded dismissals, attempts to prevent free association of employees in labour unions, discrimination against women and inadequate safety procedures for its employees. Cermaq’s activities allegedly pose an environmental threat through the spread of salmon lice and disease originating from its fish farms.


Outcome

Developments

25 months after the claim was submitted and four months after the new National Contact Point (NCP) took office the specific instance was concluded by mediation. The new NCP became independent from the government on 1 March 2011 in substance but administratively belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Three parties agreed to a joint statement which clarifies the responsibility of the parent company for its subsidiaries.

In the joint statement, Cermaq admits to have taken insufficient account to the precautionary principle. The parent company also takes responsibility for their subsidiaries activities abroad. The parties have also agreed upon principles for responsible aquaculture, indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights, workers rights and sustainability reporting. In addition they have agreed that the complain included claims about Cermaq and its business that have been refuted and that future cooperation and contacts shall be based on mutual trust and clarification of facts.

The complainants stated that they wanted the policies of Cermaqs Headquarters to change so that the operations abroad would be adjusted in a consistent manner, and hence that the case should be handled by the Norwegian NCP. During the initial assessment performed by the Norwegian NCP, the company agreed and so did the Norwegian, Chilean and Canadian NCPs. The case was accepted as a specific instance on 4 March, 2010. The NCP was reformed 1 March 2011, and a panel of four experts and a secretariat of two was established.

The complainants initially requested the NCP to undertake a fact finding mission or hire an independent expert to investigate the facts in the case. A series of meetings and requests for documentation from both the former and the current NCP to the parties were followed by a renewed offer of good offices to all parties with the goal of achieving a joint statement. The new NCP which took office 1 March 2011 considered the most important aspects of the case, especially those concerning the environment, to be well examined. To ensure efficient use of resources the NCP decided not to initiate further investigations.

Extensive information about the case has been posted on the Norwegian NCP’s webpage throughout the process. http://responsiblebusiness.no

OECDWatch Perspective: http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_166

Contributor(s): This article was modified by George Hodge (16), Kyle (3), and Ejfturnbull (2).

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