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Statement on Wildlife Works’ and Verra’s response to reports of sexual harassment and abuse at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project

Update | November 9, 2023. Response to Wildlife Works’ November 5th statement can be found below.

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The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) note Verra’s announcement(opens in new window) that it has initiated an investigation into the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya, run by Wildlife Works, over serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

Verra says it has put the project and any further credit issuances on hold until it completes the investigation.

We also note Wildlife Works’ statement(opens in new window) responding to the findings of the investigation carried out by SOMO and KHRC. That investigation will be published in full on Monday, 6 November, at 00:01 EST/05:01 GMT/06:01 CET/ 08:01 EAT.

We observe with deep regret that neither Wildlife Works nor Verra speak about providing support and remedy to the women and families who have been affected by sexual abuse and harassment.

The abuses we uncovered date back a decade or more. While it is important that Verra has taken action, the serious allegations of abuse, which Verra will now investigate, were not picked up by Verra or the audit process that is integral to its carbon offsetting system. This raises serious questions about the auditing and accreditation system that underpins the carbon offsetting industry that has enabled such abuses to go unchecked for so many years.

SOMO shared the research findings with Wildlife Works in advance of publication in a detailed letter in August 2023. We note the findings of their investigation, which we believe are inadequate to address the abuses we uncovered.

Update | November 9, 2023. Response to Wildlife Works’ November 5th statement.

Wildlife Works’ erroneous claims undermine the credibility of their investigation into sexual abuse

SOMO and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) have taken note of statements(opens in new window) by Wildlife Works in response to our report, Offsetting Human Rights: Sexual abuse and harassment at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya, published on 6 November 2023. In our report, we present harrowing accounts by former and current employees of Wildlife Works and from women from the community of sexual harassment and abuse by male Wildlife Works staff over many years.

In a letter sent by courier to Wildlife Works on 4 August 2023, SOMO presented the findings and allegations resulting from our investigation, prompting Wildlife Works to hire a Kenyan law firm to conduct an investigation. Following the publication of the SOMO and KHRC report, Wildlife Works has made several misleading statements that may undermine accountability and remedy for the people affected by the abuse. For that reason, we feel compelled to respond to these statements and clarify the issues.

SOMO was clear that the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse were not limited to one perpetrator or one department

Wildlife Works claims that:
“The sexual harassment misconduct that has been substantiated was perpetrated by one individual. Somo’s report attempts to indicate the widespread nature of this problem, yet in their letter to us they identified one perpetrator as responsible for the specific sexual harassment allegations, and one department as the place where all these allegations occurred; and A&K’s [Wildlife Works’ lawyers] investigation also found that was the case.”

This is incorrect. Our letter sent on 4 August 2023 makes it clear we had identified several alleged perpetrators. The following are direct quotes from that letter, with the redaction of one individual’s name and title:

Our investigations at Kasigau have revealed serious allegations of sexual exploitation, harassment, sexual assault, and attempted rape of women by senior employees of Wildlife Works (WLWs) and by rangers employed by Wildlife Works. Women interviewed named some of the individuals who extorted sex based on the power of their position and/or the inability of women to prevent the abuse.”

Over the course of our investigation [name redacted] was named repeatedly. For the avoidance of any confusion, this individual was also sometimes referred to as the [title redacted], but always as [name redacted]. Other individuals, including office staff and rangers, were named also as being involved in sexual harassment and/or assault of women. These names are not shared here due to the need to protect those who gave testimony.”

The testimonies we received show that the abuse involved multiple alleged perpetrators. At no point did SOMO imply that the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse were limited to one department or individual.

SOMO has significant concerns about the Wildlife Works investigation

SOMO and KHRC have expressed concern about the investigation done by Wildlife Works. If Wildlife Works’ investigation commenced with the erroneous view that the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse were limited to one perpetrator in one department, this is likely to be a significant weakness in the investigation.

Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project needs a full, open investigation where all survivors of abuse and witnesses can come forward safely to an independent entity which will protect their privacy and provide appropriate support.

Wildlife Works was given a right of reply to the allegations

Wildlife Works has suggested that it was not given a right of reply. This is a false claim. SOMO shared its findings with Wildlife Works in the letter dated 4 August 2023. This letter was delivered by courier to their office in California, and the receipt was acknowledged.

In line with SOMO’s Code of Conduct, we shared our research findings and asked the company to respond to the allegations. Wildlife Works responded by threatening legal action against SOMO and by initiating an investigation, for which they hired a Kenyan law firm.

The notion that Wildlife Works was denied a right of reply, then, is patently untrue.

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