An Oil Company as a Force for Good? How Statoil put Norway’s Identity as a‘ Champion of Ideals’ to the Test


  • Ada Elisabeth Nissen University of Oslo



Statoil, Norway, sustainable development, state-owned enterprises, business ethics


This article explores how Norway’s quest for moral authority to be recognized as a “champion of ideals” came under strain in the 1990s when the Norwegian state’s oil company (Statoil) expanded its operations in- and outside Norwegian borders. While we know a lot about Scandinavia’s international activism after the end of the Cold War, we know less about Scandinavian business’ responses to this policy. Neither do we know much about business’ potential impact on this policy. The aim of this article is therefore to begin address this issue by examining Statoil’s response to some of Norway’s moral and ethical aspirations in the post-Cold War global arena. Particular attention is paid to the tension between Norway’s ambition to be an early mover for sustainable development and a human rights advocate, and Statoil’s approach to environmental problems and human rights violations. As such, the article explores the role of state-owned enterprises in profit-making and global expansion during a formative decade when economy became an increasingly important determinant of Norwegian foreign relations, and ethical and moral objectives with roots in earlier decades were revitalized through an unprecedented number of international initiatives.






Nordic Nineties