Statement by West Virginians for Sustainable Development Regarding NCP Follow-Up Opinion
Ranson, W.Va., USA (July 19, 2022) – One year after finding Rockwool’s behavior deficient in Jefferson County, West Virginia, the Danish authority that investigates violations of the international OECD guidelines for corporate business practices has just issued its follow-up opinion. It finds that Rockwool has taken needed first steps toward improving its corporate behavior in Jefferson County.
We are gratified that the 2019 complaint filed by WVSD and our co-complainants resulted in changes within Rockwool. But community stakeholders continue to have questions and concerns that require true two-way engagement to address.
We therefore call upon Rockwool to join us in forming a Community Engagement Board in West Virginia with membership that is representative of the many different types of people in our community, and we stand by to help get this much-needed project started.
In 2019, West Virginians for Sustainable Development (WVSD) and our co-complainants lodged a complaint against Rockwool with the Danish authority acting as Denmark’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the international OECD Guidelines for businesses. In June 2021, after an independent investigation conducted by the Danish NCP, Rockwool was found lacking in two key areas:
Disregard of community and environmental interests. Rockwool's diligence in locating and building its factory in West Virginia failed to consider impacts to environmental, health, and community. To quote the Danish NCP's 2021 findings, the "initial phases of the project were based on a transactional due diligence approach and thereby too narrowly focused on risks to the company itself, rather than identifying potential adverse impacts on people, the environment, and society in accordance with the OECD Guidelines."
Lack of community engagement. The Danish authority found that "Rockwool did not sufficiently observe the OECD Guidelines' expectations to provide meaningful opportunities for the relevant stakeholders to express their views during the planning and decision-making process of the manufacturing facility project."
As we noted at the time, the outcome of WVSD’s complaint against Rockwool appears to be the first time a company operating in the United States was investigated and found deficient under the OECD Guidelines which set the baseline for business conduct.
While it’s gratifying to see that our 2019 complaint obtained support from the Danish government and resulted in changes in the company’s going-forward policies, Rockwool’s deficient due diligence and community engagement occurred during a crucial time: in 2017-2019, when the company decided to site and started to build a large factory in Ranson, West Virginia. The Ranson factory is now built and operating.
While we can’t change the past, we can work together to protect our future. The community continues to have concerns and questions about public safety, emergency planning, and how Rockwool is and will be implementing fire and other safety and environmental protection measures. To date, Rockwool’s approach to community engagement uses formats and venues that the company can control or limit its interaction, such as factory tours and the posting of scripted answers on its Facebook page. We therefore call on Rockwool to engage the community in a truly two-way dialogue by forming a Community Engagement Board.
A Community Engagement Board will consist of Rockwool leadership and a representative group of community participants who meet regularly to monitor progress and work on issues of concern such as safety and the protection of our air and water. Similar community engagement or oversight boards are used by other industrial companies to engage communities in sustained two-way dialogue, and are highlighted by the OECD guidance on stakeholder engagement which the Danish authority specifically recommended to Rockwool in its 2021 Final Statement.
The creation of a formal Community Engagement Board, with fair rules of engagement and community representatives as co-equal members, would be a meaningful and constructive step forward not only for the community surrounding the Ranson factory but also for Rockwool, which would benefit from having a representative body of residents with whom to have sustained and informed dialogue on topics and issues that can be technical and complex.
In sum, the formation of a Community Engagement Board will enable Rockwool to establish a meaningful channel of local communication and feedback, and WVSD stands ready to provide representation to such a board.
We look forward to working with Rockwool on our proposal and look forward to the company’s response.