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NCP Denmark takes Rockwool environmental concerns case to fourth phase of investigation

By Tabitha Johnston - For the Chronicle | Sep 18, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — Although Rockwool is gearing up to open its Ranson plant next April, it is not without local opposition. Over the past year, the plant’s environmental standards have been under scrutiny by a Danish responsible business conduct institution, in response to the concerns of local environmental activists.

The Danish Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct (NCP Denmark) initiated the investigation of Rockwool International in response to an Oct. 21, 2019, complaint by West Virginians for Sustainable Development, Delegate John Doyle, Delegate Sammi Brown, Jefferson County Commissioner Jane Tabb, Jefferson County Commissioner Ralph Lorenzetti, Leesburg Town Council Member Neil Steinberg, the Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group and the West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light.

The complaint is the first to have been made by any U.S. group, as a violation between countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The organization includes 37 member countries, including the U.S. and Denmark. It has a set of guidelines its members and their residents must follow, which the complainants allege Rockwool has violated.

According to Doyle (D), who is up for reelection this November, Rockwool was initially involved with the Danish government’s investigation.

“[W]e respectfully declined the invitation to enter voluntary mediation, following an extensive bilateral discussion phase with West Virginias for Sustainable Development,” said Rockwool Public Affairs Manager Paul Espinosa. “We simply concluded that formal mediation would be highly unlikely to resolve the dispute to either party’s satisfaction.”

This decision surprised many members of the complainant group, including Doyle.

“I’m amazed that Rockwool did not participate in the structured mediation — I’m astounded. It just seems to me that they would have looked much better if they had done so — it’s a company that’s been trying to cultivate a green image around the world!” Doyle said. “I would have thought they’d have figured, ‘at least we’ll mediate and make some concessions, thereby demonstrating our good intentions.'”

According to a press release by NCP Denmark, it has “not been determined whether non-observance of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has actually taken place in this case.” However, the fourth phase of the investigation will begin soon, which will likely determine NCP Denmark’s position on the matter.

“Following a bilateral discussion phase between the parties, NCP Denmark conducted a preliminary investigation of the complaint and concluded that it cannot be dismissed that non-observance of the OECD Guidelines has taken place,” the press release stated. “Consequently, NCP Denmark offered formal mediation to the parties. As Rockwool has declined to participate in mediation, NCP Denmark will initiate an actual investigation of the complaint, cf. section seven, subsection four, number two of the Danish Act on a Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible.

“As part of the investigation, NCP Denmark will primarily focus on the OECD Guidelines’ chapter II on general policies (including paragraph 14 on stakeholder engagement), chapter IV on human rights and chapter VI on environment,” the press release said. “The actual investigation is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2021.”

According to Doyle, this phase is the only time in which details about the investigation may be released. Potential results of the investigation, if Rockwool is found in violation of the OECD guidelines, are unknown.