While the United Nations works to fight poverty and hunger, UN organizations such as the UNDP, WFP and UNICEF show a striking lack of due diligence when choosing contractors such as the French Bolloré Group. Bolloré`s subsidiary Socfin is accused of corruption and land grabbing. Tell the UN to drop its contracts with the Bolloré Group.
Call to action
To: World Food Programme (WFP), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF
“UN organizations must cancel their contracts with the Bolloré Group. Bolloré`s subsidiary Socfin is accused of land grabbing and environmental destruction.”
Serious allegations revolve around Société Financière des Caoutchoucs (Socfin), a company in which the Bolloré Group holds a 39% stake. Socfin, which operates rubber and palm oil plantations in ten countries in Africa and Asia, has an unsavory reputation: local people report land grabbing and other ruthless methods wherever its subsidiaries are active. When the Nigerian village Ijaw-Gbene was burnt to the ground in May 2020, eyewitnesses identified the security force of the Socfin subsidiary Okomu Oil Palm Plantation Plc and army personnel as the attackers.
Furthermore, the Bolloré Group has been accused of corruption and illegal practices in a number of deals allowing it to secure port concessions in Africa, according to the Oakland Institute report Doing business with the Bolloré Group. On February 23, 2021, the Group agreed to pay a fine of €12 million to have legal proceedings related to corruption charges surrounding the Lomé port concession dropped.
Despite the allegations, the Bolloré Group remains a major supplier to the United Nations, which pays the Group over $50 million every year for logistics and other services, according to the Oakland Institute. The World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF are among the UN agencies that seem to value the Group as a partner. On May 24, 2021, 40 organizations from 16 countries called on the UN to end its business relationships with the Bolloré Group and its subsidiaries. The UN has not responded to this, nor to the most recent letter sent by the Oakland Institute on 11 November.
It appears that only public pressure can convince the UN to do the right thing and drop its contracts with the Bolloré Group.
Publicly traded, the Bolloré Group is majority controlled by the Bolloré family. The Chairman of the Board is Cyrille Bolloré, and his father Vincent Bolloré is one of the directors of the Socfin Group.
In October 2021 several media outlets reported that the Bolloré Group may be planning to end its logistics activities in Africa. This has not been confirmed by the company, however. Doubts are also warranted since the company`s website and the 2020 annual report emphasize the importance of the division.
The Bolloré Group also owns significant shares in the Vivendi media group (27 percent). According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Vincent Bolloré is thus promoting the far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour.
Socfin and Bolloré have sued critics from European and African organizations, the media, journalists and village officials in several cases. Socfin refutes the criticism.
See Socfin financial statements
The French Bolloré Group was founded in 1822 and is one of the 500 largest companies in the world. According to the 2020 annual report, revenue was €24 billion, and net income was €1,563 billion, with €26 billion in equity.
The Group employs 79,000 people in 130 countries and is active in the fields of transport and logistics, media and communications, and electricity storage and systems. According to its 2020 annual report, the Group “has become one of the world’s ten biggest logistics operators and Africa’s largest transportation group.”
When a company enters into a convention judiciaire d`intérêt public (CJIP, judicial agreement in the public interest) in France, that does not mean that it accepts the allegations. It is not an admission of guilt; the company is still presumed innocent. The aim is rather to get the allegations and a court case out of the way quickly and quietly.
Here is the CJIP of the Bolloré Group in the case of Togo.
Two points are particularly interesting:
In principle, the Bolloré Group could face a fine of €6.62 billion euros:
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Photo: Protest against Okomu Oil Palm Oil, Nigeria. Source: Okpamakhin Initiative.