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By Odhiambo Orlale

Ten leading flower farms have been using the CSR Africa Portal in the past two years to help them boost their social performance.

CSR Africa was launched in 2018 during the International Floriculture Trade Expo (IFTEX) in Nairobi, Kenya. The initiative lets horticultural companies explore cutting edge insights, tools and case studies for companies that want to measure and manage their social performance.

So far, regulators, certifiers and retailers have partnered with CSR Africa asking for human and labor rights compliance and living wage reports. On their part, growers face the challenge to gain quantitative insights into their social performance and improvement potential.

Ufadhili Trust, who are spearheading the CSR process, is an associate member of the Kenya Flower Council, which has over 200 members, who  own flower farms across Kenya in Nairobi, Kiambu, Muranga, Meru, Nakuru, Laikipia, Kajiado and Machakos Counties. They are one of the partners in the Women@Work Campaign supported by Hivos, which seeks to work with horticultural companies in East and Southern Africa to improve on the working conditions of the workers, most of whom are women, and help the companies pursue policies and practices that sustain their businesses.

According to Mumo Kivuitu, the Regional Managing Director of Environmental Business Strategies (EBS), sustainability is about achieving commercial success in ways that honor ethical values compliance with legal requirements and respect for people, communities and the natural environment.

Addressing participants at a one-day training forum in Naivasha in Nakuru County, Kivuitu said the sustainability of the horticultural sector in Kenya is important not only to the investors but also to the thousands workers and stakeholders; suppliers, communities and governments. “It is all about shared prosperity,”Kivuitu noted. Studies have shown that despite being the majority, women form less than 30 percent of the management teams in flower farms.

Ufadhili trust was registered in 2001 and has since been conducting several interventions in the area of social responsibility/sustainability including research, technical support and development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) tools, training and information dissemination and bench marking. Said Ufadhili’s chairman, John Mramba: “Our goal in working with the private sector is to inspire and encourage companies to increase the quality and extent of their contribution to sustainable development through responsible business practices.”

It was in that spirit that Ufadhili Trust organised  a one-day training on CSR for civil society, media and human rights organisations to highlight and address issues around the sector, which is the second leading foreign exchange earner for Kenya. Among the participants were representatives from Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Haki Mashinani, Women’s Rights Watch, Action Aid, Federation of Female Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA), African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWCFS), and journalists from The Standard Group and from The Star.

CSR Africa

Using sector statistics, local good practices and an online social performance quick scan, CSR Africa has stepped in and helped farms gain insights into current performance and areas for improvement.  According to lawyer Andrew Odete, who has been supporting the CSR Africa Portal for the last year:  “CSR Africa is a framework for improving the social performance of businesses.”

The portal focuses on seven key social areas for improvement by horticultural companies. These are: gender equality; harassment; wages and social security; health and safety; overtime.  According to Ufadhili Trust’s Maina Wambugu, “The CSR Africa portal enables the companies to monitor social and environmental issues regularly”.

He notes that the tool complements the certification process: “If a company is assessed using the CSR Africa tool, they are likely to fare better during the certification process”. Maina added that whenever there are gaps identified during the assessment process, Ufadhili Trust and their partners are ready to offer technical support in addressing the issues identified.

Benefits of CSR Africa portal

By using the CSR Africa portal, flower farms will be able to quantify social and environmental costs into monetary values for informed decision-making as well as support businesses to meet increasing social and environmental compliance demands. Furthermore, the portal complements the work of actors and stakeholders such as: Kenya Flower Council (KFC); Floriculture Sustainable Initiative, MPS, Fair Trade, and other certification schemes available locally and globally.

According to Ufadhili Trust, if a company signs up for CSR Africa portal, they benefit from the linkage with a pool of knowledgeable local sustainability/corporate social responsibility advisers in addition to showcasing the company’s commitment to sustainability.

Kivuitu says sustainability is very important and appealed to flower farm owners and managers to promote decent workplace in the horticultural sector by working with all the stakeholders. “If the flower farms are doing the right thing, treating workers right and observing the labor and environment laws, then they have nothing to fear or to hide from the public,” says Kivuitu.