GVL Clarifies misleading reporting regarding Alfred Brownell



Monrovia, 03 May 2019

While GVL recognizes Mr. Brownell’s personal commitment to land rights and environmental concerns in Liberia, leading to him being awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, we think it is important that the facts of the matter are accurately reported.

  1. Brownell’s assertion of being forced into exile due to his advocacy against GVL is unfounded and misleading. GVL has continuously sought constructive engagement with Mr. Brownell and has never issued threats or taken legal actions against the counselor. GVL understands that while there may be outstanding legal cases against Mr. Brownell, these are totally unrelated to GVL or its activities.
  2. The RSPO stop-work order imposed on GVL following the complaint by Alfred Brownell covers only Butaw district and not the entire concession as reported. Besides this and some disputed areas in Tarjuowon District, GVL can continue to operate in other areas defined by the Concession Agreement in accordance with local regulations, RSPO Principles & Criterias and its own policies and standard operating procedures. The claims that Mr. Brownell’s advocacy halted development in 94 percent of GVL’s concession is inaccurate.
  3. GVL conducts High Conservation Value (HCV), High Carbon Stock (HCS) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessments and follow a rigorous New Planting Process (NPP) defined by the RSPO before any land development takes place. While these processes do limit the amount of land actually available for development, GVL is confident that it will be able to eventually develop a significant part of the area defined in the Concession Agreement, while conserving forests and other high conservation value sites.
  4. GVL has complied to the above processes for the most part of its operations to date but acknowledges that there have been lapses in following its own operating procedures, resulting in grievances among some communities and in the inadvertent clearance of some high carbon stock (HCS) forest areas.

GVL announced a Sustainability Action Plan in July 2018. This plan, which is being implemented with the supported of the Earthworm Foundation (Formerly The Forest Trust of TFT), intends to strengthen GVL’s sustainability processes and operational procedures, to resolve existing grievances with some communities and to undertake remedial action where necessary. GVL also announced a voluntary stop to all land clearance activities in Sinoe County until the company is satisfied that it will be able to proceed with community agreement.


Facts of the RSPO Case


  1. The Butaw community, represented by Alfred Brownell, lodged a complaint to the RSPO on 3 October 2012. The complainants claimed that GVL had not fully complied with RSPO processes in developing areas in Butaw. RSPO Complaints Panel (CP) found the complaint to have merit and directed GVL to do a thorough investigation and take necessary corrective actions.  RSPO also issued GVL an order to suspend all land development in Butaw district. GVL engaged The Forest Trust (TFT) to assist in this process and duly implemented a set of recommendations to remedy some of the mistakes committed and strengthen its operational processes.
  2. The RSPO sent a fact-finding team to Liberia in June 2014 to do a field investigation. Based on its findings and other information, the CP issued a Final Decision on the complaint on 19 September 2015.  The CP directed GVL to take several actions but found that many of the complaints against GVL were unsubstantiated and that GVL had a systematic process for obtaining the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of communities.
  3. The Butaw Community withdrew their complaint against GVL in a letter to the RSPO dated 24 September 2015.
  4. The Butaw Community signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the development of oil palm on 10 February 2017.
  5. The RSPO CP initiated a second verification visit in April 2017 to verify actions taken by GVL following its final decision and to investigate claims made against GVL in several reports published by NGOs. Based on its findings, the CP decided on 14 February 2018 that GVL did not comply with several RSPO processes and imposed a stop-work order in disputed areas in Tarjuowon District.  GVL appealed against this decision but was unsuccessful. GVL is currently in the process of implementing the CP’s directives, with the assistance of the Earthworm Foundation (EF).
  6. Details can be found at https://askrspo.force.com/Complaint/s/case/50090000028ErzuAAC/


For media enquiries, please contact:

Randall P. Kaybee, Sr.

Communications Coordinator

Mobile: +231-776-433800/+231-886-433800