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On the 19th of March 2018, Green Resources received a letter from the Oakland Institute and a number of other organisations. The letter was titled: 'Green Resources¹ non compliance with Swedish Energy Agency¹s demands'.

In their letter they claim that Green Resources has failed to comply with requests from the Swedish Energy Agency in relation to environmental and social activities. The letter noted that research done by Oakland Institute came to contradictory conclusions from those found by EOH Costal Environmental Services (an independent company contacted by SEA to assess GR’s compliance).

Green Resources provided the below response (a full PDF version of the response letter can be found below):

 

19th March 2018

 

Subject: Reply to Letter ‘Green Resources’ non-compliance with Swedish Energy Agency’s demands’

 

To Oakland Institute and associated organisations,

On the 19th March 2018, we received your letter (dated 16th March). Green Resources AS (Green Resources) welcomes all feedback from our stakeholders and other interested parties, we take all criticism of our operations seriously, and endeavour to strive for continual improvement.  The original report from Oakland Institute, whilst containing a number of significant errors (as previously noted in the response from Green Resources 12th November 2014 currently available on our website), brought to light some issues which the company was not previously aware of. Following internal investigations, the company re-designed its community engagement program in Uganda, changed its grievance mechanisms, increased its focus on corruption and bribery (staff were let go due to violations in company policies), and the company has actively sought to improve its relationship with the communities and other stakeholders. In addition, GR has undergone a number of external audits, to ensure objective monitoring of our activities.

To date, Green Resources has seen significant improvement in its relationship with the communities surrounding our projects, and the latest audits show improvements across the majority of the company’s activities. It should be noted that contrary to the implications in the letter, the third-party auditors, EOH Costal and Environmental Services (CES), are an internationally recognised and well-respected independent company, with a vast amount of experience in their field. They are impartial and objective in their assessments and Green Resources is confident with both their methodologies and their findings. Due to the lack of information on the methodologies used, along with a lack of supporting data or evidence being presented, it is not possible for Green Resources to evaluate how Oakland Institute reached their conclusions or the validity thereof.

In addition, it is not possible to assess why the situation on the ground experienced by Green Resources, and observed by both Swedish Energy Agency (SEA) and CES are so contradictory to the assessment by Oakland Institute.

It should be noted that Green Resources’ plantations are on land that is within gazetted Forest Reserves. These areas are set-aside by the Ugandan Government for the exclusive use of forestry ad associated plantation activities. Uganda has suffered from rapid deforestation over recent years and providing alternative sources of wood helps to relieve pressure on native forests. According to the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), the average rate of forest loss in Uganda between 1990 and 2015 was 122,000ha/year. The greatest loss was between 2005 and 2010 at a rate of 250,000ha/year. The loss of forest cover is attributed to a number of activities including encroachment and livestock damage. The national forestry legislation is designed to mitigate these causes of deforestation, however, the report from Oakland Institute encourages them, showing a lack of concern for environmental protection. Activities which seek to relieve pressure on natural forest and increase forest cover (such as the scenario with the operations undertaken by Green Resources) are important for environmental protection. This is why the MWE supports commercial forestry operations such as Green Resources. It is noted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (in the Forest Conservation Newsletter), that plantation forests are capable of delivering supplementary social and environmental co-benefits. Green Resources is aware of the issues associated with forest plantations and this is why the company seeks to have all of its operations certified for responsible management under globally recognised standards.

Green Resources would welcome constructive dialogue with Oakland Institute and any other organisation, to find ways to help the company move forward. However, it should be noted that Green Resources is committed to strict compliance with local laws and legislations, which is a fundamental requirement of the company’s certification criteria. It is also a requirement under our agreement with SEA, the IFC Guidance on Environmental and Social Sustainability note that company’s must abide by local laws and regulations. Therefore, all actions taken must ensure compliance local legislation. Unfortunately, many of the suggestions posed in the letter are blatantly against the law in Uganda and therefore would not be legally viable for the company to implement.

Green Resources is happy to discuss the project with Oakland Institute or any of the other interested parties and welcomes them to come and visit the Uganda office in Jinja. The company would welcome Oakland Institute to bring with it information on the methodologies used, data collected, and evidence to show how it reached its conclusions in order to enable the company to respond more effectively to the findings. In addition, Green Resources welcomes those who would seek to come in and talk to the company about ways in which it can improve its operations.

 

We look forward to discussing this further with you,

Regards,

 

Erik Knive

Group Chief Executive officer

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