New study : an elaborate ploy LafargeHolcim In Cameroon
December 6, 2017
While the UN negotiations for a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights started in Geneva in October 2017, Aitec publishes the full version of its research : « An elaborate ploy : LafargeHolcim In Cameroon ». The focus of the investigation is Cimencam, the Cameroonian subsidiary of the French-Swiss cement giant LafargeHolcim. The details of this investigation reminds us the compelling need to accelerate the regulation of transnational corporations at national and international levels.
Aitec looked at the working conditions and treatment of Cimencam and sub-contractors workers, as well as the impact of Cimencam activities on people and the environment around its production and mining sites. General absence of a workplace union presence meaning that workers have
little opportunity to articulate individual or collective grievances, precariousness, misuse of contracting out, secretive redundancy plan… Moreover, the company doesn’t respect environmental standards, exceeds the level permitted of dust emissions (high concentration of dust on average seven times higher than the acceptable level in Djoungo) and neglects transportation safety standards and monitoring of air quality. This behavior directly endangers people’s health (respiratory infections such as bronchopneumonia, bronchitis, pneumonia and flu). Cimencam is conspicuous by its opacity and worsens the existing risks.
To deal with the company negligence, legal frameworks are totally insufficient and don’t allow to tackle those risks and guarantee compensations to the populations.
A real change in philosophy would require companies to not only react a posteriori to human rights environmental violations, but force them to prevent them and to be held legally accountable for any breaches along their value chain and in their subsidiaries, says Lala Hakuma Dadci, author of the report.
The French law on duty of vigilance for parent or ordering companies enacted in March 2017 represents a significant progress in the fight against corporate impunity, and could have been a valuable tool to limit the damage caused by LafargeHolcim in Cameroon. However, after Lafarge and Holcim merger in 2015, Cimencam now belongs to a Swiss corporation and no longer to a French one. Hence, the French law won’t apply, eventhough Lafarge has been the parent company responsible for Cimencam behavior for decades.
Acknowledgement of transnational corporations responsibilities, beyond the specific case of LafargeHolcim, requires that host or originating states support actively the development of ambitious international law.
Today, if the European Union, including France, seems to be willing to participate to the Intergovernmental Working Group of the United Nations for a binding Treaty, it is still far from taking a constructive position during the negotiations that would encourage the creation of an efficient binding treaty. While 2018 will be key for the process, it is time that France pressures the EU to make progress in the defense of human rights worldwide.
Lala Hakuma DADCI – Aitec Coordinator
+33 1 43 71 22 22 – firstname.lastname@example.org