Bergen Univeristy (Norway) dumps G4S citing “reputational damage” cost

Bergen Univeristy (Norway) dumps G4S citing “reputational damage” cost

Omar Barghouti

This is a very significant victory for the global BDS campaign against G4S, as it deals with the company’s involvement in illegal and unethical projects as a financial liability, arguing that hiring a company as complicit as G4S in violations of human rights carries a steep “reputational” cost.
G4S is also currently under investigation in South Africa, says the Guardian, for torture of prisoners in one of the prison facilities it runs there.
The BDS movement has always argued that investing in companies that are in grave — and persistent — violation of international law is not just wrong from an ethical, and possibly legal, perspective. It is also a financial liability in the longer term, as the South African experience showed. The return on investment may be quite high in situations of human rights violations, but resistance to such violations may make the entire investment collapse in a short period.
The BDS campaign against Veolia is a case in point. Five years after that campaign was launched in Bilbao, the Basque Country, in November 2008, Veolia has lost — or was compelled to pull out of — contracts worth many billions of dollars, mainly in Sweden, the UK, Ireland, and now St. Louis, Missouri (USA).
The news from Bergen University below will send shock waves across the investment world, most likely, as it adds to G4S already tarnished reputation as a company accused of involvement in torture (a crime against humanity under international law) and other human rights violations committed by Israel and others.
Any talk by G4S managers, under BDS duress, about their intentions to gradually pull out of illegal Israeli projects in the occupied Palestinian territory will be treated by the BDS movement as empty rhetoric coming out of a security company that often does not assign a lot of importance to the value of saying the truth!
And even if G4S actually ends its supply of products and services to Israel’s illegal settlements and checkpoints in the occupied West Bank by 2015, as it once hinted it would, that will be a welcome first step, but only that. G4S must end its involvement in all Israeli prisons for the campaign against it to be called off. Torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, often including child prisoners, are carried out in all these prisons.
Our human rights are indivisible; our resolve to hold to account all entities involved in denying them is unwavering.
#BDS news from Ingvild Skogvold:
Norway: The University of Bergen says no to #G4S due to reputational damage.

In today’s Klassekampen (Norwegian newspaper), there is an article about the University of Bergen’s decision not to award the security contract to G4S ( G4S presented the lowest priced offer in the security tender. However, the University added an estimated loss of 2,5 million NOK related to potential reputational damage the University would suffer if they chose to award the contract to G4S.

The University of Bergen clearly links this decision to G4S’s activities in the occupied West Bank, and the fact that they want the University’s core values to be reflected in which suppliers they choose.

Below I have translated relevant parts of the article:
G4S in new conflict with University

The University of Bergen (UiB) has estimated that they will lose 2.5 million NOK in reputational loss on using controversial G4S as security company.

The security company G4S is not only undesired at the University of Oslo, now the University of Bergen has said no to using the company’s services due to the high risk of reputational damage. G4S has been under pressure for a long time due to their activities in the occupied West Bank.

– We have a clear set of core values, and trading with companies that do not have the same ethical platform as us will lead to reputational damage for our institution. This is specifically related to the media coverage on G4S activities on the West Bank, says Dag Rune Olsen, principal at the University of Bergen.

During the tender for new security services, the University specified that awarding the contract to G4S would lead to an estimated loss of 2.5 million NOK. The company initially offered a price that was about 2 million NOK lower than its competitors.

– This is an attempt to operationalize last year’s decision on ethical trade. We want our institution’s core values to be reflected in which suppliers we choose, Olsen explains.

Reputation in dollars and cents

The security company questioned the University’s decision in several letters to the University. UiB is also notified that G4S is considering issuing a complaint to the Complaints Board for Public Procurement (Kofa).

– One can of course discuss whether we have calculated the reputational loss correctly. We are interested in whether one can put a monetary value on reputational loss when considering a tender, says Dag Rune Olsen.

He says that it is not every day the university takes such a step. Olsen says that the ethical criteria could be weighted based on a grade, but that the University has chosen to consider the reputational loss based on price.

– We are not calculating the cost of a regular commodity, we are therefore using an estimate. This means that there is a certain degree of discretion involved, he says.

Allegations of torture

Oddny Miljeteig (Socialist Left Party) is a member of the board of the University of Bergen, and is very pleased with the management’s decision to use a different security company than G4S.

– This decision from the University Management is a satisfactory follow-up of the resolution on ethical trade. It is clear that large parts of the intellectual and academic communities in Bergen would have been outraged if the University hired G4S, she says.

The company has been criticized for providing security systems to Israeli prisons, where there have been reports of mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners. In addition, the security company has contracts for the Israeli authorities in occupied territory on the West Bank. On Monday, The Guardian wrote that the G4S-run prison in South Africa is under investigation for allegations of the use of torture against detainees.

– Universities and local authorities have a responsibility that goes beyond the bottom line. The economic situation is not so dire that one cannot afford to take basic human rights and ethical concerns into consideration in terms of how services are performed, said Miljeteig.


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