Key Improvements to PHC Infrastructure
When Feronia acquired the business in 2009, c. 47% of planted hectares were considered beyond the end of their productive life and few trees in the potentially high-yielding 8-18 year range had been treated with fertilizer in their formative years. We had just one fully operational palm oil mill and PHC's production was down over 95% from at its peak.
Over the intervening years we have invested heavily. We have renovated two mills and constructed a new palm oil mill at Yaligimba, the previous mill having closed in 2008 after more than 50 years of operation. We have undertaken a large replanting programme with 16,700 hectares of oil palm replanted by the end of 2015 and we have re-equipped the three plantations with vehicles , equipment, tools and machinery.
Feronia inherited existing services and infrastructure including housing, healthcare and sanitation which had suffered years of under investment and fell short of the standards we want for our communities. It took several years to get the loss making business on an even footing and secure the finance needed to start investing in our infrastructure but we have now implemented an ongoing programme to repair and rebuild local infrastructure and have made progress in the following areas:
Key Improvements to Labour and Working Conditions
Feronia places great importance on the quality and well-being of our workforce. We want our people to realise their full potential and therefore aim to create a safe and thriving work environment. Many of our employees and managers have worked for the company for decades and continue a generational legacy. We recognise the significant knowledge and skills held by our workforce and consider them to be an invaluable asset.
When Feronia acquired PHC in 2009, we made a commitment to zero redundancies and retention of pre-existing employment contracts. We formerly adopted and communicated to our employees a Human Resources Policy- which acts as our guiding principle in the management of all of our people. Other improvements to labour and working conditions include:
- Wage increases: Since 2009, the company has steadily increased wage rates in line with increased productivity and affordability. In 2014, Feronia and the six unions which represent its over 3,800 PHC employees signed a new Collective Agreement focussed on improving pay, benefits and general terms of employment and represented an ongoing commitment by the as the operational performance of the Company improves.
Employees receive a number of benefits above and beyond what is legally required and every employee is paid a minimum of the cash equivalent of the DRC’s minimum wage.
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS): All workers receive training in OHS and have been provided with the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) following comprehensive OHS risk assessments. We have also implemented an occupational health monitoring programme in order to reduce (and ideally eliminate) work related illness or accidents and to create optimum working conditions to protect our workers mental and physical health.
Ensuring road safety is critical to running safe and efficient operations. In 2015 we implemented a programme of defensive and safe driver training for all PHC and relevant subcontractor drivers with drivers receiving copies of the Feronia Road Safety Manual which is available in English, French and Lingala and by which they must abide. All drivers employed through contractors are also required to follow PHC road safety policy and guidelines. We also run regular ‘Toolbox Talks’ with our drivers to discuss driving risks such as the dangers of drinking and driving.
- Anti-Bribery and Corruption: The prevalence of everyday corruption poses a risk to any business operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We apply a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to acts of bribery and corruption by our employees or by business partners working on behalf of the company, including advisors, agents or contractors.
We are actively taking steps to meet our obligations to detect, prevent and eliminate, as well as reduce opportunities for bribery and corruption. We are committed to complying with all applicable laws in the UK, Canada and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We have developed detailed policies and procedures to strengthen the culture of ethics and integrity in our business and are committed to providing guidance and support to employees should they face these issues. Our senior management team have all received training in anti-bribery and corruption, and we are expanding a training programme to relevant personnel across our business. To date we have trained 50 key managers.
Better Understanding of our Concessions
From the outset, we have believed that Feronia can act as a force for good in the management and protection of the natural environment, in the creation of long term high quality employment and thriving local communities. In 2014 we commissioned an independent consultant to conduct a pioneering study, analysing the environmental and socio-economic impacts and opportunities associated with the rehabilitation of our plantations so as to guide our thinking on how to avoid and/or minimise adverse impacts, and to identify opportunities through which we could leverage bigger development outcomes. The results of these findings can be found here.