I would like to welcome you to Feronia’s second Sustainability Report. The response to our inaugural 2016 report has confirmed the important role the report plays in not only explaining our sustainability activities but also aligning and motivating our own internal organization.
2017 has been a milestone year. After several years where the Company struggled to secure sufficient financing for maintaining its core operation and executing its strategy, the entry of a new equity investor in the form of Straight KKM 2 Limited which is owned by a consortium consisting of a number of funds managed by Kuramo Capital Management LLC, as well as Kalaa Mpinga, a successful Congolese entrepreneur, has secured our financial sustainability; a critical pre-requisite for executing our overall sustainability plan.
The challenges facing our business remain significant. Operating in such remote areas, with the Congo River as the main artery of connection, means that everything we do demands so much more commitment, resource and patience.
It also means that our responsibility towards communities and the environment is of a much higher level than companies operating in more developed geographic areas. We have of course the responsibility for our employees and the overall running of the estates, but because of a lack of state run infrastructure, thousands more rely on us. The roads we maintain serve the general population on their travels to the surrounding cities. The hospitals and medical centres we provide serve the wider population: a revealing statistic is that only 13% of the children born on the estate have parents who actually work for Feronia. The shops and trading activity that serve the estates employees, equally benefits the wider community. This is a huge responsibility we carry, and our ambitious sustainability plan reflects this.
We are clear that this plan and all the actions reflected in it not only serve the employees, communities and environment but all stake-holders. We say without hesitation, that we are not a charity but an enterprise that aims to deliver a profit for its shareholders so that we become financially sustainable. To do this it is clear that investing in social and environmental infrastructure is business critical. We must nurture and retain the trust of the communities that surround us, as without their support our presence will not be sustainable. This requires an involvement that goes well beyond what happens on the estates themselves. We must help to create economic activities around the estates so that more people have access to better livelihoods.
This report will give you a comprehensive overview of not only our ambitions but also our actions. We are proud to be part of an organization that affects, and will also improve, the livelihood of thousands of Africans. We are conscious that a lot remains to be done: As we recognized in our 2016 report, living conditions on the estates are not yet optimal and community outreach remains a huge area of work. But we make progress, every day, and with the business maturing and nearing a point of financial sustainability, we will soon be in a position to accelerate our overall sustainability efforts.