Statement on Partner Africa Investigation Report

In February 2023, the BBC broadcast a documentary containing allegations of serious misconduct by two contractors working at James Finlay Kenya.

As soon as we became aware of these allegations, we instigated a series of actions to immediately strengthen safeguarding at JFK. These have included enhancing welfare structures and doubling the size of the welfare team, offering free private counselling and psychosocial support to all onsite, strengthening JFK’s approach to contractor management, and an extensive campaign to build awareness and trust in our confidential whistleblowing line so that affected persons feel able to come forward. This work continued after JFK was purchased by its new strategic Investor, Browns Investments Plc, in November 2023.

However, the key to securing tangible, long-term change has always been Partner Africa’s investigation into the extent and nature of misconduct at JFK. Through Partner Africa, we have sought to truly understand not just the specific issues alleged in the documentary, but the underlying causes that allowed them to manifest.

At the end of 2023, we received Partner Africa’s final report, and since then, have been working to establish a robust action plan based on its recommendations. Its development has been led by Finlays and Browns, with the support of an investigation Steering Group comprising NGOs and customers.

The key findings of the report are as follows:

  • Partner Africa has identified a number of actual and potential risks to individuals at JFK. These include sexual and gender based violence, harassment and intimidation, and discrimination and potential abuse within villages on site.
  • It found there to be a number of direct causes giving rise to these risks. These include grievance mechanisms not working as they should, limitations to gender programmes, and issues with worker representation structures. It also found that the root causes of these risks include unequal power dynamics, issues with organisational culture, fear and mistrust, and lack of governance, leadership and commitment on human rights and gender.
  • While this was not the primary purpose of the investigation, Partner Africa did identify a number of positive findings about individual’s attitudes to working at JFK, as well as on JFK’s HR policies and communications.

The Finlays Board’s response to the findings

The report has confirmed what has been clear for some time – that the systems and procedures in place at James Finlay Kenya had not been working as they should, and that a number of organisational and cultural issues had allowed the possibility of abuse and exploitation to arise.

When reading the report, our first thoughts were with anyone whose life may have been affected by abuse, harassment or misconduct of any kind while at JFK. To anyone who has experienced this, whether directly or indirectly, the Finlays board sincerely apologises for falling short in ensuring JFK was a safe and respectful place to work.

While we, together with Browns, have made good progress in the last 12 months, knowing that these issues were occurring within our business is extremely difficult to countenance. While we can’t change the past, we can influence the future and what is important now is that Partner Africa’s report provides us with a forensic understanding, not just of the risks and impacts of abuse on those connected with JFK, but the direct and root causes behind them.

What will happen next?

  • Finlays and Browns, supported by the Steering Group, have established a comprehensive Action Plan to remediate the issues found. A summary of the action plan can be viewed here
  • The action plan is based on Partner Africa’s recommendations and takes a ‘root and branch’ approach that will see urgent action taken on immediate priorities, while delivering structural changes that aim to prevent abuse from occurring, and the implementation of a robust approach to Human Rights Due Diligence.
  • We have acknowledged the report to the Browns Plantations Kenya community and are planning further engagement sessions to ensure knowledge of, and opportunities for feedback on and involvement in, delivery of the action plan.
  • In the spirit of contributing to industry knowledge about the issues of sexual and gender based violence in Kenya, we have engaged members of civil society on the investigation findings and are in dialogue with them.
  • While Browns is now ultimately responsible for implementing the action plan, Finlays will remain closely involved as Browns Plantations Kenya’s biggest customer.
  • Delivering the action plan in full will take time, however Browns has made a strong commitment to ensuring the action plan is implemented as quickly as possible, and that BPK is a place of safety, inclusivity, respect and equal opportunity for all.

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