Kakuzi becomes first African company to adopt UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

KENYA – Kenyan fresh food producer and exporter, Kakuzi Plc, becomes the first corporate organization in Sub Sahara Africa to constitute and establish the Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee (IHRAC) benchmarked against the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In a trendsetting move, the integrated agri-business firm joins a growing list of globally focused institutions’ progressively adopting the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, such as Global Chemicals manufacturer BASF SE.

The company has appointed Kenya’s former Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai to be the Chair of the independent advisory panel.

The committee would provide independent technical advisory to the firm’s Board of Directors, guaranteeing sustainable compliance with global human rights matters across the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed firm’s operations.

Alongside the IHRAC body, Kakuzi, has also enacted an Operational-level Grievance Mechanism also benchmarked against the UN Guiding Principles.

“The appointment of this IHRAC committee underscores this commitment to voluntarily protect, respect and remedy any human rights grievances as responsible business practices.”

Kakuzi PLC Managing Director – Chris Flowers

The move is aimed to enhance the timely and sensitive resolution to grievances that any of its stakeholders may have concerning the company.

This arose after law firm Leigh Day in October sued the parent company of Kakuzi, Camellia Plc, for turning a blind eye to alleged systematic human rights abuse by its subsidiary’s employees for a period of 11 years since 2009

“As part of our core values, the Board of Kakuzi PLC is sincerely committed and desirous of strengthening end to end efforts to ensure that human rights are respected in all our operations.

“The appointment of this IHRAC committee underscores this commitment to voluntarily protect, respect and remedy any human rights grievances as responsible business practices,” said Kakuzi PLC Managing Director Chris Flowers.

Members of the Prof Githu chaired IHRAC, include former Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Board Member Grace Madoka, former Finlays Kenya Legal and HR Director Dr Brenda Achieng, and Kakuzi Plc non-executive independent director Andrew Ndegwa with another member set to be announced soon.

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Both Ms Madoka and Dr Achieng are Advocates of the High Court of Kenya and have extensive corporate governance experience, while Mr Ndegwa is a Chartered Accountant.

Prof Githu, said he recommends the idea of IHRAC adoption by other local companies to advance Human Rights in corporate environments.

While advocating for the adoption of the IHRAC standards benchmarked against the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, he further said such a committee is advantageous to all stakeholders, including government, business, civil society and even to the people working within the enterprises.

He noted that addressing human rights issues leads to a better organization with a motivated workforce, where stakeholders’ human rights are upheld.

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights recently released an assessment of the first ten years of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementation by States and businesses.

The UN Working Group noted that, “There has been significant progress over the first decade, as witnessed by a growing number of companies committing to respect human rights and a recent surge of legislation in Europe making respect for human rights and the environment a mandatory requirement for businesses.”

In December this year, the Working Group will launch a roadmap for implementation over the next decade.

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