KENYA – In response to the February 2023 BBC report exposing a sex-for-work scandal, Browns Investment, formerly known as James Finlay-Kenya in Kericho, has implemented significant changes in its governance structures. 

While acknowledging the weaknesses in its management systems that facilitated incidents of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence, the company has embarked on a comprehensive overhaul to address these issues.  

The Standard reports that Brown Investment has developed a new framework for remediating past cases and has enhanced communication with employees regarding their welfare. 

As part of the overhaul, the company has restructured its welfare operations, including regular training and rotation of welfare staff, and relocated the welfare office. 

Additionally, it has reviewed all processes and policies related to contractor management. 

The BBC report uncovered instances of sexual exploitation involving contractors, with over 70 women abused by managers at the plantations operated by James Finlay and another British company.  

Following internal investigations, Brown Investment has reviewed and enforced its human resources policies, particularly those concerning recruitment, promotion, and redundancy. 

Internal investigations commissioned by the new management identified actual and potential risks to workers, including limitations in gender programs, issues with workers’ representation structure, unequal power dynamics, organizational culture, fear, mistrust, and lack of governance, leadership, and commitment on human and gender issues. 

The company commissioned two investigation teams to address these issues. The first investigation, led by Bowmans law firm, focused on specific cases raised in the BBC program, while the second investigation, led by ethical working practices NGO Partner Africa, comprehensively reviewed sexual violence, abuse, or harassment across the company sites. 

Recommendations from the investigations included enhancing welfare structures, offering free private counseling and psychosocial support, strengthening the company’s approach to contractor management, and launching an extensive campaign to build awareness and trust. 

Ben Woolf, Group Corporate Affairs Director, emphasized the necessity of addressing organizational and cultural issues that allowed abuse and exploitation to occur, stating, “A number of organizational and cultural issues have allowed the possibility of abuse and exploitation to rise.” 

Brown Investment, a subsidiary of Sri Lanka’s LOLC Holdings, acquired James Finlay Kenyan tea business in a deal valued at US$23.6 million in 2023.  

LOLC Holdings took an 85 percent stake in James Finlay Kenya, with a 15 percent stake allocated to the local community, aiming to improve relations amid historical land disputes. 

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