First Progress Report 

Sustainability Action Plan 2017-2018

Period of July – October 2017

REPSA (Reforestadora de Palmas de El Petén, S.A.) is committed to communicating regularly and transparently on its intentions, performance and challenges.  We therefore seek to report our progress against our recently launched 18-month sustainability action plan, which has as its core objective the effective implementation of our Policy on Responsible Palm Oil Production, through the accomplishment of six goals and their specific activities.

  • Institutional policies and corporate values are socialized and clearly understood by stakeholders.
  • Human rights are respected and protected.
  • The company is transparent with stakeholders about its policies, plans, grievances, and operations.
  • Key Conservation Values are protected and restored.
  • Environmental impacts are managed effectively.
  • Social impacts are managed effectively and contributions are made to local development.

 

This first progress report summarizes main achievements, progress points and challenges found within the implementation of some key activities during the period of July-October 2017. It does not describe all activities within the Plan as a whole.

The full version of the Sustainability Action Plan can be accessed here: http://repsa.com.gt/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/REPSA-2017-2018-Sustainability-Action-Plan-V3-.pdf

  1. Institutional policies and corporate values are socialized and clearly understood by stakeholders.
  • In March 2017, REPSA’s Community Relations team began training field supervisors on the Policy to Prohibit Violence and Intimidation. These supervisors have started to share the knowledge they have gained with field workers during 5-minute training sessions at the beginning of the work day. For the moment, workshops have been focusing on the importance of non-violent conflict resolution in the work place. With support from The Forest Trust (TFT) and one of our key palm oil clients, REPSA has been exploring opportunities to improve and enhance training and also deepen Policy Implementation. We are envisioning an initial workshop with the objective of further integrating the values outlined in our Policy to Prohibit Violence and Intimidation by building capacity within REPSA management, with an emphasis on protecting human rights and promoting tolerance of local organizations/individuals critical of the company.  An additional objective of the workshop is to involve local civil society and potentially the Ombudsman’s office (Procuraduría para los Derechos Humanos-PDH) in the capacity building process with the dual goal of drawing on local expertise and opening the door for partnership between civil society and/or government with the palm oil sector.

REPSA is committed to deepening policy implementation and will be reporting with more detail on the outcomes and the results of this key initial workshop in the upcoming second progress report due in March 2018.

  1. Human rights are respected and protected.
  • During August 2017, with support from a recognized international consultant firm, REPSA organized a Risk Assessment workshop that builds on the security program assessment that we commissioned earlier during the year. The workshop targeted senior management (10 persons) and included an introduction to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPHSR), in addition to identifying and assessing key threats and prioritizing mitigation measures. Most importantly, the workshop provided the opportunity to help REPSA staff build an action plan to manage a specific high-risk issue. Aligning our operations with the VPHR will allow REPSA a better understanding of risk across the company, viable mitigation plans, improved community and NGO relations, and reduced risk of being implicated in human rights grievances committed by others.
  • In July 2017, Advocacy for Business and Human Rights (ABHR), a consulting firm, began conducting an assessment on Grupo HAME´s operations, including REPSA, in order to identify potential impacts to human rights resulting from the company’s operations. This 4-month consultancy involved interviews with personnel, as well as several visits to plantations and mills as part of the data collection process. Derived from this assessment, we have determined next steps to enhance our management system in terms of human rights with a holistic, crosscutting and coherent approach. Our efforts will be concentrated in specific areas, such as the identification and prevention of potential risks, the strengthening of our grievance mechanism, and consultation/dialogue process with key stakeholders. The workshop described above and the human rights assessment reflect our commitment to the continuous improvement of our working environment through the implementation of key security and human rights related recommendations accepted as industry best practices.
  • REPSA is committed to providing proper working conditions for its workers. Therefore, during mid-year we concluded the renovations of the housing sites that were pending. These infrastructure improvements include new dormitories (providing 3.8 m2 per person -the ILO guidelines stipulate 3.6 m2 per person-), toilet facilities, and shower and laundry areas, to ensure that workers have safe and hygienic conditions, privacy and access to well-maintained sanitation facilities, in accordance with industry best practices. To ensure adequate sanitary and hygienic conditions, the Housing Services Department has implemented a cleaning and maintenance program with weekly monitoring of the housing sites.
  • In order to implement a transparent system for calculating the work day of employees at operational levels in REPSA, during the period of July to October 2017, 15 biometric systems were installed in various places, such as Santa María, El Tucán, Camelias, Mirador, Nicté, La Unión B and Champeguano, in addition to the two mills.
  • To guarantee coverage and quality of internal and external transportation services for workers, we started monthly inspections through the Logistics Department. The inspections aim to verify various aspects regarding vehicle conditions – lights, registration plate, circulation permit, etc. Deficiencies are reported to the companies that own the buses, who also receive a deadline to resolve each issue. Area Supervisors give follow up to ensure that company owners are taking actions. Companies that do not meet deadlines get warning letters and those who still do not comply are dismissed as REPSA suppliers.
  1. The company is transparent with stakeholders about its policies, plans, grievances, and operations.

–          In August 2017, REPSA hosted several workshops with local stakeholders in order to socialize the results of the Year 1 Action Plan (2016-2017) and to obtain their input for the Year 2 Sustainability Action Plan (2017-2018). More than 200 different stakeholders of Sayaxché, such as leaders of the local Community Development Councils (COCODES), the Mayor and members of the Municipal Council, local government representatives, teachers and religious leaders participated in these workshops. The attendees made important contributions to the new 2017-2018 Action Plan and expressed their opinion on the impact achieved by the Year 1 Action Plan. Their key recommendations have been included in the activities of the new Sustainability Action Plan. This participatory exercise allowed REPSA to develop a plan that is significantly aligned with stakeholders’ concerns. Some of the attendees’ perspectives on the socialization process can be appreciated in the following video: https://youtu.be/lSCWYtmoQRg.

Acción Ciudadana (http://accionciudadana.org.gt/), which is the Guatemalan Chapter of Transparency International (TI), accompanied and observed all of the workshops, and also interacted with some of the stakeholders to obtain a broader vision of their perspectives on the process. Their representative published a report on the activities, and stated: “one of the conclusions reached by some community leaders and public institutions representatives was that this is an innovative procedure that will enhance the way REPSA interacts with local stakeholders, by offering them the opportunity to participate in the decision making process of social, environmental, communitarian and labor related actions implemented by the company.”

  • REPSA also engaged local, national and international NGOs on a one to one basis to present the Year 2 Action Plan 2017-2018 and obtain their input. During the period being reported, REPSA held meetings with one local NGO, one national NGO and two international NGOs with representation in Guatemala. With some of these organizations we had more than one meeting and ended up defining common agendas to initiate a more permanent dialogue to address other topics of interest. These meetings allowed us to visualize the issues that interest our stakeholders, and to strengthen the plan’s activities with their comments and observations. Despite the fact that few NGOs provided specific recommendations to the Action Plan, we have been taking note of all suggestions in order to take them into account as we continue with the process of revising and strengthening the Action Plan. Note: Due to NGO requests we are not able to provide their specific names, but we expect to do so in the near future as we continue to build mutual trust.
  • The comments and recommendations received from stakeholders were analyzed in order to incorporate them as key activities of our Year 2 Sustainability Action Plan 2017-2018. One concern that was recurrent among the various groups is the management of High Conservation Value Areas (HCVs), specifically riparian and forest habitat. Some of them expressed interest in seeing the work REPSA has been doing with its riparian habitat reforestation program, which has been included in Activity 4.2 of the new action plan. Attendees also expressed the need to enhance their knowledge about the POME treatment, which has been included in Activity 5.4. The socialization of REPSA´s environmental management will clearly be a persistent activity during the Year 2 Action Plan. Other aspects worth highlighting in terms of stakeholder feedback are the following: strengthen training on workers’ rights; continue improving workers´ infrastructure (dormitories, bathrooms, access to water); identify opportunities to hire local people; promote environmental education with local communities; communicate more effectively with the government institutions in order to identify project opportunities that can be jointly coordinated/executed; and the need to permanently share social and environmental progress with the population in the city of Sayaxché and local communities.
  • The socialization of the improved 2017-2018 Sustainability Action Plan with local stakeholders is programmed for early 2018.
  • Based upon initial recommendations from The Consensus Building Institute and The Forest Trust scoping study, we have started the design of a roadmap for a multi-sector dialogue/workshop to address common regional issues. This initial stage includes the definition of a dialogue scope and outlining key conditions in consultation with stakeholders, as well as selecting a mutually agreed upon facilitator. With external support, REPSA is also in the process of identifying opportunities for REPSA customers to drive broader alignment within the Guatemalan palm oil sector, update the mapping of actors who should play a role in the dialogue process, and support in communications with national and international NGOs. One of the opportunities that we envision that could bring key actors together is the Sayaxché Governance and Development Pact. For example, within the context of the Pact, REPSA has promoted the active participation of palm oil companies, local authorities and community leaders in order to obtain an agreement with IGSS (Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad Social) for the establishment of a new IGSS hospital in Sayaxché to bring social security coverage to the area. During the period being reported, IGSS experts, alongside local authorities and community leaders, visited Sayaxché and chose a suitable property to establish the hospital. REPSA is committed to promote the opportunity that the Pact represents within the industry, towards a multi-actor collaboration on regional issues important to stakeholders. Together with industry peers, we have been discussing the possibility and benefits of enhancing the Pact, including expanding its scope to include other stakeholders, such as local NGOs and broaden the range of topics.
  1. Key Conservation Values are protected and restored.
  • As part of our differentiated management plan for palm trees located 10 meters away from smaller waterbodies, we structured a monitoring program to measure water quality in adjacent water sites and the impact of such plan. From July to October 2017 REPSA sampled 17 sites in waterbodies that pass through its operations. Samples are collected 4 times per year and results are analyzed twice a year by an independent laboratory.
  • As reported in the final progress report of our Year 1 Action Plan, REPSA submitted six environmental impact studies (one for each plantation area) to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) for evaluation and final approval. In November 2017 MARN updated the status of three studies, as “assessed and resolved”, which means that we are now waiting for the official notification of approval. You can access the status of each study on their official site by clicking on the following links:
  • Fincas Argentina and Guadalupe, File number: DA-0084-2017 (http://apps.marn.gob.gt/aplicaciones/ConsultasWeb/ConsultawebInAm.aspx)
  • Zona del Tucán, File number: DA-0053-2017 (http://apps.marn.gob.gt/aplicaciones/ConsultasWeb/ConsultawebInAm.aspx)
  • Zona Central REPSA, File number: DA-0064-2017 (http://apps.marn.gob.gt/aplicaciones/ConsultasWeb/ConsultawebInAm.aspx)

As for the pending 3 additional studies, we expect MARN to approve them during the first semester of 2018.

  1. Environmental impacts are managed effectively.
  • REPSA has been implementing the mitigation measures contained in a technical study of household wastewater treatment plants conducted by an independent environmental consultant in August 2017. The study includes technical information regarding water quality management in the company’s agricultural operations and establishes a plan with 3 objectives in order to guarantee compliance with environmental legislation: 1) Bi-annual monitoring of effluent quality, 2) Sludge extraction in each wastewater treatment plant, 3) installation of separate drainages to convey wastewater. As part of this plan, in September 2017, REPSA conducted an exploratory monitoring to assess wastewater treatment plant’s efficiency.
  • To ensure an effective management of the environmental impact of our operations, we manage and treat Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) responsibly. In that sense, we continue implementing our Wastewater Treatment Systems (WTS) to reutilize treated water in the plantations. To monitor results, since September 2016 we have been taking water samples from the WTS on a weekly basis. These samples are sent to the mills’ laboratories in order to test quality regarding efficiency in organic load removal. Average results from the past four months –July to October- show high levels of efficiency in both mills, 97.44% for REPSA 1 and 98.17% for REPSA 2. Additionally, an independent certified laboratory takes samples twice a year for validation. Since 2016, these results show that REPSA surpasses legal requirements.
  • REPSA has also been implementing its integrated waste management system in each area of operation. Our waste collecting system consists of eight collection points distributed in two routes, where solid waste is extracted three times a week. Responsible waste management entails separation and classification by type, as well as a rigorous control of waste volume handled. During the period being reported our records show an effective management of an average of 36 tons of organic waste.
  • In regards to the implementation of our plan for responsible management of agrochemicals, REPSA continued monthly trainings for all field workers in the use and safe handling of agrochemicals. The workshops are conducted by the Health and Safety Department and address the proper use of phytosanitary products (PEST controls) and agrochemicals, including correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), safe hygiene practices and responsible handling of waste and chemical waste.
  • We have also established a verification system to ensure that the company, as well as external or independent plantations, do not use prohibited agrochemical products. Our procurement system has a strict control mechanism that blocks the codes and names of the prohibited products in order to prohibit their purchase. Verification visits to independent producers’ warehouses will start in January 2018 and will occur four times during the year.
  • In order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, odors, and other pollutants, REPSA periodically reviews and updates its emissions management plan, as part of a continuous monitoring. Through an independent laboratory (Soluciones Analíticas), during mid-year REPSA monitored air quality in both mills. Results showed that both mills are in compliance with international norms.
  1. Social impacts are managed effectively and contributions are made to local development.

 

  • As communicated in previous reports, we have a cooperation agreement with Asociación de Amigos para el Desarrollo y la Paz –ADP- (Friends for Development and Peace Association) and the Municipality of Sayaxché. With this partnership, we strive to strengthen capacities of 170 leaders from 25 communities located in the area of influence of REPSA. The objectives are to promote citizen participation of community leaders, women and young people in the processes of advocacy at the local and municipal levels. After receiving the training, the leaders should be able to identify and prioritize development needs in their communities and lead efforts to tackle them. This 5-month program addresses topics like social auditing, project management, leadership skills, civic responsibilities and local legislation. Resulting from these workshops, five communities have created youth commissions to enable spaces for young leaders to participate in their communities’ development processes.
  • During this past four months, the company has been working alongside community leaders, local authorities and representatives of government institutions in order to attend specific needs identified as development obstacles by local leaders. REPSA has been contributing with the Education Ministry in the implementation of the Integral School Program. This entails the donation of fruits –bananas- to be distributed as snacks and/or breakfast in three public schools, benefiting 450 children to help improve their nutritional conditions. To complement this, the project involves the educational community, starting with parents, who play an active role in meal preparation. Parents also attend workshops to learn healthy eating habits and hygiene practices to implement at home in order to prevent diseases.
  • We continued investing in improvements in educational infrastructure, water and sanitation projects in communities near our operations.
    • Construction of a well in Santa Rosa public school, benefiting 223 students with access to safe water.
    • Reparation of the water system for the health clinic of El Pato community, which assists people from six other communities.
    • Infrastructure improvements in public schools:
      • San Fernando and Canaleño communities: construction of classrooms and kitchens, donation of equipment –desks and blackboards-.
      • Santa Rosa and Tamarindo communities: construction of perimeter walls to safeguard children, teachers and school equipment.

END OF REPORT.

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