Improvements in the field of Freedom of Expression gets credits
GES, the responsible investment advisor, has given Telia Company credit for its improvements in the field of Freedom of Speech, and now considers its Freedom of Expression case on Telia Company, resolved.
After media revelations in 2012 showed that several of Telia Company’s subsidiaries and associated companies in Eurasia were operating systems that allowed the national public security services real-time access to all information that users exchange through text messages and phone conversations, as well as identifying the location of the user, GES put Telia Company on its watch list of companies that are in breach of international norms and conventions. GES advises institutional investors, such as pension funds, on how to asses and engage with investee companies that violate internationally recognised conventions such as the UN Global Compact. However, in GES’s recent Quarterly Engagement Report, the company gives Telia Company credit for the way it has addressed, in a transparent manner, the issue of Governments’ surveillance of telecommunications.
In particular, GES highlighted Telia Company’s Law Enforcement Disclosure Report for clearly explaining the complexity of legislation providing authorities with direct access to networks, and the difficulty for any operator to shield its clients’ right to privacy. GES also noted that Telia Company’s customers are now better informed about the increased risk in several of its markets.
GES, who has been engaged in a constructive dialog with Telia Company since 2012, concludes in its report that Telia Company has fulfilled the change objectives required in order to resolve the case, as the company is using both its individual and collective leverage together with its peers in the Telecom Industry Dialogue and its cooperation with the Global Network Initiative in a constructive way. Both initiatives push for legislative changes and changes in praxis to better respect freedom of expression and privacy. Both GES and Telia Company recognise that the issue of freedom of expression and protecting customers’ rights to privacy is very complex and remains highly relevant in some of the more challenging markets. However, GES acknowledges Telia’s commitment to finding solutions to these challenges, and therefore concludes in its Engagement report that due to Telia’s improvements and actions, “GES now considers this case resolved”.
’We are committed to, whenever possible, challenge unconventional surveillance requests which do not meet international conventions. Decisions to do so are, however, never straightforward and simple. In meetings with external stakeholders, such as with GES, Telia Company can find inspiration and deliberations for the best way forward’ says Patrik Hiselius, Senior Advisor Digital Rights at Telia Company.
GES is a leading provider of responsible investment and engagement services to institutional investors. GES supports asset owners and asset managers in developing and implementing integrated investment strategies with regard for environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, and engages with investee companies on international conventions breaches.