Liberia: New report calls on Swedish co's to address & remedy human rights impacts following their exit from bioenergy project; incl. co comments

Shortly after the exit of Swedish companies Vattenfall and Swedfund from a bioenergy venture in Liberia 2012, the project collapsed. According to Swedwatch and several other NGOs, the investors left without an exit strategy and without conducting adequate human rights due diligence. This led to several human rights challenges for the local communities. In their new report, Swedwatch argues that although investors have implemented general improvements in their HRDD processes, they have yet to assess the adverse impacts or discuss how they may contribute to remedy for the affected rights holders in Liberia. The report, as well as comments from the companies are available below.

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Report
25 May 2018

Liberian communities still suffering from failed bioenergy project

Author: Swedwatch

Shortly after the exit of Swedish companies Vattenfall and Swedfund from a bioenergy venture in Liberia 2012, the project collapsed...

The project, and its shutdown, led to several human rights challenges for local communities... [T]he investors left without an exit strategy and without conducting adequate human rights due diligence (HRDD) in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)...

Farmers [...] state that they are not able to sustain themselves since the promised assistance did not materialise. Workers who were disabled due to injuries incurred while working in the project say they have not been compensated...

Swedwatch’s dialogue with Vattenfall and Swedfund during 2018 shows that six years after their exit from the project, investors have implemented general improvements in their HRDD processes. However, they have not yet assessed the adverse impacts or discussed how they may contribute to remedy for the affected rights holders in Liberia...

The findings in this briefing add to Swedwatch’s previous research on responsible investments..., including that human rights impacts tend to increase in the event of an unexpected shutdown of land-related projects. Without responsible exit strategies in place, communities face high risks of having to cope with adverse impacts on their own with limited access to remedy...

 

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25 May 2018

Swedfund's statement on Swedwatch report

Author: Swedfund

Swedfund’s objective is to reduce poverty by investing in sustainable businesses in the world’s poorest countries, a crucial mission if we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030. We continuously improve our processes, and we value the research made by Swedwatch, highlighting important issues. We regret the suffering of those affected and we have since taken measures to further improve our investment and exit procedures including human rights due diligence in high risk situations, as well as developing our sustainability work along with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights...

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25 May 2018

Vattenfall’s statement on Swedwatch briefing

Author: Vattenfall

Vattenfall, together with Swedfund, joined Buchanan Renewables Fuel (BRF) as a minority owner (with 20 and 10 per cent shares respectively) in June 2010...

Early 2012, the majority owner together with Vattenfall, concluded that the conditions for the operations in Liberia needed new goals and options. The large-scale export of biomass was not viable...

The decision to divest included that Vattenfall covered BRF's loans to ensure that the company could restructure with the clear aim of continuing operations. The discussions with the majority owner of BRF focused on what was needed for BRF to continue operations in Liberia. With Vattenfall’s divestment the majority owner became fully responsible for the operations....

We acknowledge that we have a responsibility to respect all internationally recognized human rights and that we are in a position to make a positive impact on human rights issues. We have integrated human rights into policies, procedures and decision making. To continuously develop our way of working in line with UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights we have during the past years implemented a number of activities...

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