CEDHA’s complaint alleges that Botnia’s Orion pulp mill project will impact local communities’ economic livelihoods and human rights. The complainants maintain that the project is plagued with environmental problems, including the company’s failure to collect and provide reliable information about the project’s real and foreseeable impacts. The complaint also mentions problems regarding discloure and bribery and states that the project is straining regional diplomatic relations between Argentina and Uruguay.
Finnvera, the Finnish Export Credit Agency, is supporting Botnia’s Orion pulp mill project. Nordea is a Swedish-Norwegian financial institution that is set to provide Botnia with a multi-million dollar package to finance the project The Nordea complaint alleges that the bank violated the Guidelines in two respects: first, through its partial financing of the Orion paper mill, and second, by refusing to provide information about its dealings with Botnia. Apart from providing $300,000 of its own funds towards the pulp mill, Nordea also helped arrange finance from other banks and financial intermediaries.
The Botnia and Finnvera cases were filed with the Finnish NCP, while the Nordea case was submitted to the Swedish and Norwegian NCPs.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.1
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.2
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.5
- Version 2000 Chapter III
- Version 2000 Chapter III Paragraph III.1
- Version 2000 Chapter V
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.0
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.1 Subparagraph V.1.A
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.2 Subparagraph V.2.B
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.3
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.4
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.5
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.6
The Finnish NCP invited CEDHA to a meeting on 30 August 2006 in Helsinki to discuss this case and the two related complaints. In November 2006, the Swedish NCP, with support from the Norwegian NCP, accepted the complaint against Nordea.
In January 2008, the Swedish NCP responding for both Norway and Sweden, concluded the Nordea case by stating that the NCP found no “indications to support the complaints made about Nordea having violated the OECD Guidelines in its part-financing of Botnia’s pulp mill in Uruguay.” This conclusion was largely based on the dismissal of the Botnia specific instance by the Finnish NCP and on the IFC’s decision to finance the Botnia project, but the Swedish NCP made efforts to gather information by maintaining contact with the parties throughout the process and facilitating dialogue meetings and information exchanges.
Key in the statement is the firm stance taken by the Swedish and Norwegian NCPs declaring “the Guidelines can and should be applied to the financial sector as well as to other multinational enterprises… [including], where practicable, business partners, including their suppliers and subcontractors, [and] to apply principles of corporate conduct compatible with the Guidelines”. However, on the issue of transparency and access to information, a key focus point of CEDHA’s complaint, the NCPs did not take a strong stance, but encouraged “Nordea and other actors in the financial sector to practice as much transparency and freedom of information as possible,” and that, “it is essential that companies be sensitive to the public’s increasing demand for information.”
Another interesting aspect of the NCP’s statement is the affirmation that NCPs should treat other CSR norms as applicable to companies if those norms are in the “spirit” of the OECD Guidelines.