State Investments and Human Rights?

The Case of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global

  • Tue 27 Feb 18

    14:00 - 16:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Professor Ken McPhail

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Essex Accounting Centre

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

Essex Accounting Centre is delighted to welcome Professor Ken McPhail to our weekly research seminar series to present his paper, titled 'State Investments and Human Rights? The Case of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global'.

Event abstract

The purpose of this paper is to study how a large sovereign wealth fund addresses human rights issues. Drawing on a series of interviews we analyse the way in which responsibility for human rights has been translated into the practices of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (Czarniawska and Joerges, 1996). The paper documents how a large investment fund used several mechanisms to address human rights risks. We demonstrate that different logics among actors sometimes impeded addressing human rights issues (Jay, 2012; McPherson and Sauder, 2013). Our findings demonstrate high levels of institutional complexity in the case organisation(s). The paper illustrates the difficulty of co-operation between actors with different logics. This can result in institutional conflict (Hoffman, 1999), but also in positive outcomes for human rights. The findings indicate that investors need credible sanctions to achieve results when engaging firms on human rights issues. Large investors can influence companies on specific human rights issues.

Speaker biography

Professor Ken McPhail is currently Vice Dean for Social Responsibility within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester. He oversees the strategic development and implementation of the Universities distinctive social responsibility agenda across 5 schools, 36 disciplines, 18,000 students and 1,800 academic and support staff. In addition, he also sits on the University’s Social Responsibility Governance Group which is chaired by the Vice Chancellor and Principle. As Vice Dean for Social Responsibility, Ken has been involved in delivering a new strategic relationship between the University and Greater Manchester City Council with a co-funded Economic Advisor to the new City Mayor. He has also been involved in the New Strategic Inclusive Growth Unit partnership with Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Prize winning “Policy @ Manchester” platform for turning research into impact. He initiated the New Ethical Grand Challenges program, and facilitated the Sustainably Challenge delivered to 5000 new students in Welcome Week 2016.

Prior to joining the University of Manchester, Ken McPhail was the Head of School at La Trobe University Melbourne. He was responsible for managing a complex departmental structure with staff across five campuses and played an active role in delivering the biggest change management process in the history of the school. He was also the Chair of the Business School’s newly establish 2017 Committee tasked with blue-sky thinking around delivering the universities strategic vision and beyond. Preceding his role at La Trobe University Melbourne, Ken was the Director of Undergraduate Studies and The Scottish Centre for Professional Ethics at the University of Glasgow. His role involved the management of some major changes in undergraduate provision across Glasgow University. Ken was also part of a team that secured grant funding of £50,000 to establish a Scottish forum for Professional Ethics. Ken’s roles have involved liaising with key professional bodies, professional service firms and other institutions, including The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland; The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Scotland; the BBC; The Scottish Science Centre, The Royal Academy of Edinburgh, The General Medical Council, the Law Society, The Association of Certified Chartered Accountants. His work is focused on various aspects of accounting ethics and corporate accountability. He has a PhD from the University of Dundee and a MA (Honours) degree in Accountancy & Computer Science from the Heriot-Watt University.