The Kasigau Forest Protection project in Kenya - Earthly Update
We are deeply saddened and shocked about the allegations of sexual assault and misuse of power within the Kasigau REDD+ Project in Kenya. The project, which started in 2006, boasted gender empowerment and women employment as one of their strongest co-benefits. We extend our sincerest apologies to all those affected and to our customers who invested in the project and we assure you that we were not aware of any incidents until this week.
With immediate effect, we have pulled the project from our marketplace and are initiating a dialogue about the future of our partnership with Wildlife Works.
Earthly Due Diligence & Assessment Process
Earthly is committed to upholding integrity and trust within the voluntary carbon market. Time and again, we have refused lucrative project partnerships that didn't meet our minimum standards for biodiversity protection or social safeguards; or ended partnerships with projects when we found evidence of non-compliance.
Our Project Assessment Framework was born out of this very need, a need to not only support the highest quality Nature-based Solutions in the world, but also to support both our customers and local communities and their commitments to make a positive impact.
However, our assessment is ultimately desk-based and therefore it is limited in its ability to detect discrepancies between what is reported by projects and auditors, unless the auditors do their duty of reporting the most accurate description of project conditions in their project audits. In the case of Kasigau, based on the qualitative reports from Verra’s Verification Reports, the Earthly social rating was 6.7, which passed our minimum standard for Social pillar, but was below our portfolio average of 7.9 for Social indicators. This was because, despite having a well rounded grievance mechanism system on project documents, the project displayed a lack of transparency regarding the effectiveness of the project's grievance mechanisms or a clear safeguard of stakeholder grievances. We felt that a lower score on the pillar would reflect those gaps in project confidence and accurately state the strengths of the project while allowing the developer the opportunity to identify areas for improvement.
What are we doing next?
In addition to removing Kasigua from our marketplace, we are reaching out to all our customers who are currently investing in the project and offering them an option to transfer their investment to another Earthly project. We are having a discussion with the project team and will make a decision on permanently removing all their projects. We want to understand not only how they will ensure this never happens again on any of their projects, but also how they are supporting those who have been victimized.
We are now instituting a formal procedure in our Project Onboarding Process that will include interviews with local academic experts and local independent actors/ NGOs to get third-party independent evidence on all our projects before initiating partnerships and onboarding them onto the Earthly’s platform. This will also be retro-actively instituted for all our active projects on our platform to strengthen our independent due diligence process.
We believe that this is the only acceptable step to ensure that the projects we support deliver that good that they promise without causing harm to local individuals or communities. This will help to avoid incidents like this and bring in first-hand, local perspectives of the reality of the projects in our portfolio.
We are determined to do our part to prevent such incidents from occurring in any project we support. Earthly will continue to pursue its mission of making a positive impact in the fight against climate change while upholding the dignity and rights of all individuals involved in our projects.
Response from the developer- Wildlife Works:
The project's developer Wildlife Works has released a statement responding to the investigation and the steps they have taken to investigate the claims since the release of the report. Please read the statement from Wildlife Works.