How a structured social and environmental governance program is helping a Congo-based program palm oil producer pursue profitability with the trust of stakeholders.
Developing an Environmental, Social and Governance program to comply with industry standards and lender requirements – essentially from scratch and with little-to-no internal resources or know-how.
- Lack of/crumbling infrastructure
- Plantations are in remote areas and accessible almost solely via the Congo River
- High unemployment in the DRC
- 100,000 people live within 5 km of the plantations; half are under 16 years old
- Little to no education
- Limited communications
and Internet access
Borealis Stakeholder Engagement and Compliance software
Now able to efficiently address, monitor, and resolve grievances, track KPIs for reporting, and demonstrate compliance with applicable standards and requirements.
Approximately $11M spent to date on environmental and social improvements.
Business operations and commitments are now in line with international and lender requirements.
Satisfaction among internal and external stakeholders has vastly improved.
From the brink of extinction
Feronia is an agribusiness operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The company’s primary objective when it acquired its palm oil business in 2009 was to save these once-thriving plantations from the brink of extinction.
More than just an employer
Feronia is the only employer for hundreds of kilometers and the local communities depend heavily on its plantations. Each year, more than 2,000 children are born in the plantation hospitals. These children and their families need water, schools, sanitation, housing, and healthcare. Government help is scarce and grants, when available, are only temporary. Beyond investing in jobs, Feronia has to invest heavily in critical social infrastructure.
In 2013, Feronia secured financing from a European Development Finance Institution. With this financing came the requirement that a coherent and well-defined Environmental, Social and Governance program be put in place to effectively manage social risk, grievances, and stakeholder engagement.
Leveraging proven expertise
Feronia quickly set to work developing an ESG program in conjunction with major shareholders, starting with an Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP). To get the program up and running in a more efficient manner, the company decided to rely on the expertise of an external firm.
- Poor integration of ESG program into
- Difficulties in recruiting ESG managers with the requisite skills and experience
- Historical commitments had not been captured
- Lack of resources for social engagement
- Users largely unfamiliar with technology
After thoroughly analyzing its needs and resources, Feronia found the right fit with Boréalis. With the help of the Boréalis team, the company devised a two-phase plan to accomplish its ESG goals.
- Stakeholder engagement plan (SEP)
- Grievance mechanism policy (GMP)
- Community development program (CDP)
- Security management plan (SMP)
- Health and safety monitoring plan
- Environmental monitoring program
- Produce quarterly and annual reports for lenders
- Manage capacity building on
SEP, GMP, CDP and SMP
- Implement a stakeholder engagement
platform to support all of the above
The Boréalis team worked on-site in conjunction with its longtime partner Monkey Forest Consulting (MFC) to help Feronia develop local ESG skills and capability. This process included building and training dedicated on-the-ground environmental, social and governance (ESG) teams as well as implementing the Boréalis Stakeholder Engagement Software across the company’s multiple sites so that all social and environmental activities – be they community engagement and development, environmental and incident monitoring, social assessment, grievance management or community requests – could be recorded, measured, monitored, reported, and audited.
Implementation of Borealis Stakeholder Engagement software
- Up and running on day one
- Time spent on adoption,not development (none required)
- User feedback integrated in project roadmap
- All information centralized in a single cloud-based platform
- Existing dashboards show progress on process implementation in near real-time
Reaping the benefits
Feronia started using the Borealis Stakeholder Engagement and Compliance modules in 2017 and quickly saw positive impacts. It is now able to efficiently address, monitor, and resolve grievances, track performance indicators for reporting to the board’s ESG sub-committee, and demonstrate compliance with applicable international standards and lender requirements.
Happier internal and external
Feronia isn’t just making positive strides with external stakeholders. Having a structured and transparent process for managing its environmental and social compliance processes means that its geographically dispersed managers and ESG teams can now see things like each other’s performance or the status of any given activity with the simple click of a mouse. These verifiable records are enabling the company to demonstrate transparency and accountability on its journey to compliance.
A powerful corporate memory
Thanks to Borealis software, Feronia is able to capture, track, and report vital data such as stakeholder records, requirements, and interactions – creating a lasting corporate memory, regardless of the team in place. When Fanny Salmon, Feronia’s ESG Coordinator, returned from a four-month maternity leave, she was able to see and analyze everything that had happened during her absence, allowing her to basically pick up right where she had left off.
To future profitability
As Feronia continues to overcome its organizational challenges and pursue profitability, it can confidently demonstrate that its social and environmental performance is in alignment with lender requirements and industry standards. Just as importantly, it can now identify and handle issues proactively before they escalate to crises, further strengthening the trust of its internal and external stakeholders.