“We used to work in our sandals, but Mr. Anokye made sure that we have the right equipment. We now wear safety shoes, gloves, goggles and face masks,” says Joseph Sackey, an employee who has been with the company for over five years. “We also received training about the health risks that we were facing. And now, if we see something dangerous happening, it’s easy for us to recognise it and do something about it. Nobody gets hurt anymore.”
Ankomah, the inspector from Ghana’s Forestry Commission confirms this. “There have been tremendous improvements in the way things are done, with clear changes on the factory floors. Not only from managers and owners, but also from the employees themselves”, Ankomah says.
“But we still find issues, often related to companies that only operate on the domestic market. This is mainly because there is less scrutiny from their buyers. Regulatory controls on the domestic market are not stringent enough, but it is a situation the VPA process is gradually improving on.”
“As employees’ awareness increases, they realise what’s in for them. They realise it’s their health that’s at stake, their income,” he explains. “The VPA process has brought greater transparency and accountability. It has led people to realise that illegalities will be detected and punished. It has had a deterrent effect and companies have become more responsible, either pushed by enforcement from our side, the Forestry Commission, or by their employees demanding better treatment.”
Civil society organisations have also observed these positive developments in company behaviour.
“The VPA process has led the timber sector in our country to make major strides,” says Obed Owusu-Addai. “We can see how law enforcement has dramatically picked up. Companies that are exporting are making particularly noticeable improvements, in particular in relation to environmental and social obligations. However, we still have to be vigilant so that companies that operate domestically adhere to the same standards, as it’s in everyone’s interest to safeguard our country’s precious resources.”