Friends of the Earth Norway, Forum for Environment and Development (ForUM) and Cermaq ASA have agreed on a Joint Statement on the foundation for sustainable aquaculture. The statement concludes a more than two years old complaint on Norwegian fish farming activities in Chile and Canada.

The agreement was finalised after mediation in the new Contact point for responsible business, Norway’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Friends of the Earth Norway and ForUM filed a complaint against Cermaq in 2009, claiming the company had acted in violation with the OECD’s guidelines. Cermaq rejected these claims. The parties have now agreed on a joint statement highlighting the importance of sustainable use of natural resources for the future of aquaculture, the company’s social responsibility in the time to come and the future contact between the NGOs and the company.

Learning from Chile
– We acknowledge that aquaculture in Chile, including Cermaq’s farming activities, was not sustainable in the manner it was done prior to the fish health crisis in 2007. We have learned from the Chilean collapse, and followed through on a number of concrete improvements, says Bård Mikkelsen, Chair of the Cermaq Board.

– We are very pleased that this process concluded with constructive dialogue which both parties are set to continue, he underscores.

Friends of the Earth Norway and ForUM acknowledge that Cermaq has learned from the crisis in Chile.

– We see that Cermaq has undertaken positive changes in their routines to prevent fish disease both in Chile and in Cermaq’s global business, says Lars Haltbrekken, Chair of Friends of the Earth Norway’s board.

Chair of ForUM’s board, Andrew P. Kroglund, emphasizes the significance of the agreement.

– We are also very pleased that Cermaq through the Joint Statement commits to respecting the rights of indigenous people in all areas where they operate, he says.

The Joint Statement describes, amongst others, how Cermaq will operate according to the precautionary principle, indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights, labour rights and reporting on sustainability. The Joint Statement also acknowledges that Cermaq, after the crisis in fish health in Chile, has contributed to knowledge development to make the industry more sustainable.

The parties agree there are accusations in the complaint that have been refuted. The parties also agree that contact shall be based on mutual trust and clarification of facts.

Mediation succeeded
The complaint was filed in May 2009. In March 2011 the Contact Point was reorganised, and made independent of the Norwegian government. The new Contact Point for responsible business formally took on the complaint March 30th 2011. The Contact Point retrieved comprehensive additional information from the parties. The complainants still feel there are aspects regarding the case about which an independent study could have provided better enlightenment. The Contact Point is of the opinion that the most material issues in the case, especially those concerning environment, were satisfactory examined amongst other through an inquiry by the Institute for Marine Research. Considering resources aspects and efficiency, taking into consideration that the case has been on-going for nearly two years, the Contact Point has not found it appropriate to initiate further investigations. In mid-April the parties were gathered and offered mediation.

– The parties have participated in an important process to solve disputes on corporate responsibility regarding human rights and environmental considerations, says chairman of the Contact Point, Dean and Professor Hans Petter Graver (University of Oslo).

In spite of all OECD countries having a corresponding Contact Point, there are very few examples of similar Joint Statements.

The Norwegian Contact Point for responsible business
The OECD’s guidelines are recommendations for how enterprises involved in multinational trade and production should deal with, among other things human rights and environmental issues. Membership in OECD obligates having a national Contact Point, a body for issuing complaints to treat claims of violation of the OECD guidelines.

The complaint against Cermaq involves Norway as the company’s head office is located in Norway, as well as Chile and Canada where operations are located. All these countries are OECD members. In the complaint against Cermaq the complainants wanted the attitude and policies of the head office to change in order to impact the operations abroad in a consistent manner. Cermaq agreed that the complaint should be handled by the Norwegian Contact Point, as did also the Norwegian, Chilean and Canadian Contact Points.

The Contact Point is not a judicial body, but can assess whether a company has acted in violation with the guidelines for corporate responsibility.

The Norwegian Contact Point is financed by and administrated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but is in substance independent of the Government.