Socfin Group/Socapalm and Sherpa concerning operations in Cameroon
Lead NCPBelgium
Supporting NCP(s)France, Luxembourg
DescriptionThe specific instance was initially submitted to the NCPs of Belgium, France and Luxembourg on 3 December 2010. The complainants raised issues relating to Socapalm's activities in Cameroon which were allegedly causing environmental and social impacts and questioning the responsibilities of its shareholders and business partners, namely the Bolloré and Socfin Groups.
Theme(s)Disclosure, Employment and industrial relations, Environment, General policies
Date3 Dec 2010
Host country(ies)Cameroon
SourceNGO
Industry sectorAgriculture, forestry and fishing
StatusConcluded
Summary

Read the 1st follow-up statement issued by the Belgian NCP -  5 October 2015

Read the 2nd follow-up statement issued by the Belgian NCP – 4 February 2016

Read the final statement issued by the Belgian NCP – 15 June 2017

Read the final statement issued by the French NCP concluding the specific instance - 3 June 2013

Read the 1st follow-up statement issued by the French NCP - 17 March 2014

Read the 2nd follow-up statement issued by the French NCP - 2 March 2015

Read the 3rd follow-up statement issued by the French NCP - 18 May 2016

 

The specific instance was initially submitted to the NCPs of Belgium, France and Luxembourg on 3 December 2010. The complainants raised issues relating to Socapalm's activities in Cameroon which were allegedly causing environmental and social impacts and questioning the responsibilities of its shareholders and business partners, namely the Bolloré and Socfin Groups.

 

The French NCP was designated to take the lead by mutual agreement to intervene with the Bolloré Group, a majority shareholder in Socfin, itself a majority shareholder in Socfinaf and Socapalm, the company in charge of oil palm plantations in Cameroon. The French NCP established the business relationships between the different entities involved in the submission.

 

The French NCP provided its good offices to the Bolloré Group and Sherpa between June 2012 and May 2013, followed by mediation taking place February 2013 and March 2014. After the mediation, the parties agreed to implement a remediation plan over two years. The agreed remediation plan was presented to and approved by the French NCP on 3 September 2013. The French NCP also approved independent monitoring mechanisms (GRET and SNJP) to make the remediation plan operational and ensure its proper implementation. This resulted in a blockage in the implementation of the remediation plan by Bolloré’s subsidiary (Socfin Group). As a result this specific instance was  refocused on the Belgian-Luxembourg Socfin Group in which the Bolloré Group is the majority shareholder. The French NCP suggested to the Belgian NCP that it should engage with the Socfin Group in 2015 to resolve the blockage. Initially, the Socfin Group refused the good offices of the Belgian NCP, but in December 2015 it agreed to participate in dialogue through the Belgian NCP.

 

The Belgian NCP set up a mediation and gathered the parties in Brussels three times. On June 2017, in consultation with the NCPs of France and Luxembourg, the Belgian NCP decided to terminate the mediation process. It notes that the remediation plan agreed to in 2013 was only partially implemented by the Socfin Group. It regrets the Socfin Group's refusal to carry out a neutral and independent monitoring and follow-up as agreed to by the Bolloré Group and the Sherpa association and approved by the French NCP. Furthermore, its efforts notwithstanding, the Belgian NCP notes that it is impossible for it to reconcile the views between the complainants represented by Sherpa and the Socfin Group.

 

The Belgian, French and Luxembourg NCPs note that despite the fact that the Socfin Group has progressed in terms of public commitments relating to the implementation of international CSR standards, practical and measurable results on the ground have yet to be achieved, particularly in Cameroon.

 

The Belgian NCP recommends that:

 

- The Socfin Group makes Cameroon a priority in its overall CSR process that is already in progress;

 

- The Socfin Group clarifies the framework agreement with TFT (the Forest Trust), referring explicitly to the complaint lodged with the NCPs and its consideration in the future work of TFT;

 

- The Socfin Group continues and improves the consultations with residents through, among other methods, established dialogue platforms and by trying to broaden their representativeness;

 

- The Socfin Group complies with the OECD Guidelines and applies the due diligence processes recommended in the OECD-FAO Guidance on Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains.

 

All stakeholders are invited to a follow-up meeting to discuss measures taken by the Socfin Group in relation to this specific instance  within one year of this statement to discuss the developments in the Socfin Group regarding its CSR policy, specifically in Cameroon.