Amnesty International reiterated its call for leading venture capital firms to respect human rights and conduct human rights due diligence on their investments and investors, following disclosure that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund currently invests in a number of leading venture capital firms and tech accelerators.
“It is disappointing that leading VC firms and tech accelerators are willing to accept funding from a fund that is credibly implicated in serious human rights violations,” said Michael Kleinman, Director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative.
Sanabil Investments recently published a list of the venture and growth funds in which it invests, including 500 Startups, Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue, ICONIQ Capital, Insight Partners and TechStars. Sanabil Investments is overseen by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies have responsibility to conduct human rights due diligence. Any such due diligence should have uncovered that projects and companies owned or linked to the PIF have been involved in serious human rights abuses, including during the development of NEOM, a ‘futuristic’ city, where there have been violent confrontations with tribes residing in the region and human rights abuses over land acquisition on the site.
Unfortunately, this lack of attention to human rights by leading venture capital firms should come as no surprise. In its 2021 report Risky Business: How leading venture capital firms ignore human rights when investing in technology, Amnesty International highlighted the lack of adequate human rights due diligence by leading venture capital firms and accelerators including 500 Startups, Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue, ICONIQ Capital, Insight Partners and TechStars.
“We call on all venture capital firms and accelerators – including those that currently receive funding from Sanobil – to follow their responsibilities under UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to respect human rights in all of their operations, including conducting due diligence on both their investments and their investors,” said Kleinman.