Vattenfall and Swedfund cut and ran

REPORT | 11 March 2013
Children running on piles of rubber wood chips that have been left to rot. Photo: Anders Hansson

Liberian stakeholders suffer the negative consequences of the decision by Vattenfall and Swedfund to divest their minority share in Buchanan Renewables.

The report by Swedwatch, SOMO and Green Advocates is an update on the impacts of Buchanan Renewables’ operations and Vattenfall’s divestment.

In 2011, SOMO and Green Advocates published a research report on the impacts of Buchanan Renewables on sustainable development in Liberia. The report, entitled ‘Burning Rubber: Buchanan Renewables’ impact on sustainable development in Liberia’, aimed to provide insight into the impacts of the business activities of Buchanan Renewables (BR), a company producing biomass from old rubber trees, on a range of different stakeholders in Liberia.

The report also examined to what extent the company’s practices reflected its corporate image as a sustainable and socially responsible venture. Among other findings, the report found that a number of smallholder farmers who had engaged with BR were facing difficulties sustaining their livelihoods, that BR’s removal of old rubber trees from Firestone’s large rubber plantation had increased the hardships for local charcoal producers, and that BR’s corporate structure was perfectly suited for tax avoidance purposes.

The present report is an update of ‘Burning Rubber’ and addresses the developments that have taken place since November 2011. In particular, this report looks at the decision by Vattenfall and Swedfund, two Swedish minority shareholders of the company, to divest from BR in May 2012. Through series of interviews, the underlying motives of this decision are discussed. Furthermore, this report discusses the consequences of Vattenfall and Swedfund’s decision on the smallholder farmers in the province of Grand Bassa. The report also looks at the effects of BR’s operations on the charcoal producers at and around the Firestone estate, describes recent developments related to the proposed biomass power plant, and re-addresses the company’s corporate structure.

Made in collaboration with: Church of Sweden, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)