Oljefondet - Return or Ethics? A System Theoretical Analysis of the Norwegian Oil Fund and the Complexity It Is Facing as a Government Owned Fundin Relation to Profit and Ethics

Helena Østrem Øgård

Student thesis: Master thesis


The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, or informally the Norwegian Oil Fund, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. What is interesting about the Oil Fund and other long-term investors in the global financial marked, is the observation of an ethical shift in regard to their investment strategy. The challenges the world is facing in relation to poverty, climate change, and food shortage has led to the implementation of a more responsible investment strategy to protect and ensure ethical considerations. One can identify how the Oil Fund consequently contemplate how their investments impact environmental and social issues. The aim of this master thesis is to understand how the emerging attention on ethical considerations creates a complex tension in the Norwegian Oil Fund`s responsibility communication. The purpose is therefore to investigate the fund`s responsibility communication in order to gain insight into the complexity that must be navigated in order to safeguard both financial and ethical considerations in the management of the fund. Drawing on Niklas Luhmanns system theory the thesis first examines the historical semantics of the Oil Fund’s responsibility communication in the period of 1998-2019. Furthermore, the thesis consists of an analysis of the communicative paradox which emerge in the fund’s responsible communication. The analysis is followed by a discussion on how the tension between financial and ethical considerations challenge the fund`s role as a government owned fund. In conclusion, I argue that the complex tension between financial and ethical considerations communicatively affects the Norwegian Oil Fund`s responsibility communication in three ways. Firstly, the complexity contributes to a shift in what is communicated as responsible. The fact that both return, and ethics are included in the fund’s responsibility communication leads to the emerging of a responsibility paradox in the communication. The communicatively handling of the paradox influences the Oil Fund`s fundamental role as an investor in the financial marked. When ethics is introduced in the responsibility communication, it challenges the political consensus of the management of the fund, and its role as a foreign policy instrument. The fund`s role as an investor is therefore influenced by a hybrid identity in addition to the safeguarding of national and international political interests, which becomes the guiding elements in the management of the fund.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages79