GVL strongly refutes the allegations contained in the Global Witness (GW) report regarding our operations in Liberia. We recently met with GW in London to respond to 20 draft assertions submitted to us for comment ahead of the report publication. Our responses are publicly available on our website: 2015-07-08 GVL Information to Global Witness Assertions
We are highly transparent in all our operations and have repeatedly invited local and international NGOs to work with us. In the past few months a number of prominent national NGOs have begun engagement with GVL, including developing agreements in principle for these NGOs to monitor our community engagement practices.
The report also alleges that GVL accelerated its conversion activity during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. These allegations are simply wrong. 70% of all land preparation activity in 2014 was undertaken prior to the major outbreak of Ebola in August, and from that point activity was significantly scaled back against our 2014 development plan, in response to the crisis. All activity that GVL did undertake during this period was done whilst taking necessary Ebola precautions, which included community briefings, providing latex gloves, protective gear, buckets and disinfectant, Ebola prevention posters and other appropriate literature.
We are proud of the fact that as an early and active member of the Ebola Private Sector Mobilisation Group (EPSMG) and also through our direct activities on the ground none of those who lived in the communities where we operate and none of our 3,400 employees contracted Ebola.
The report also makes assertions of coercion and improper dealings by government officials and possibly by GVL employees. These assertions are historical in nature and were previously investigated and showed that GVL has not been party to any coercion or improprieties and there is no evidence of such action. Our policies on these matters are publicly available on our website.
We believe that our sustainability and operational processes and their implementation meet and in many areas exceed RSPO, Liberian and industry requirements and standards. Yet we know that we can still do better and will continue to make improvements in our operations and processes. This is our intention, working with communities, RSPO, NGOs and others as appropriate, and following our core principle of continuous improvement. We welcome active collaboration on the ground, working with communities, NGOs and partners and appreciate their constructive feedback.
Today, with almost 4,000 employees, GVL is one of the largest employers in Liberia and one of the only employers in the southeast part of the country, a region which is particularly deprived compared with the rest of the country. We are a for-profit business, but expect to invest for another 8-10 years before seeing any initial returns. However, we already see that our contribution to the education, health and the economies of local communities – where about 40,000 citizens including dependents, are direct beneficiaries – is starting to change lives materially. We remain committed to responsible investment in Liberia and to working constructively and respectfully with our host communities and stakeholders for many years to come.