Smurfit Kappa AGM attracts protestors amid claims


Shareholders attending packaging giant Smurfit Kappa’s annual general meeting were met with a number of protestors on Friday morning, with activists calling the company out amid claims of “environmental destruction and human rights abuses,” taking place in South America.

Staging the protest was activist-led Corporate Accountability Organisation, Ekō (formerly SumOfUs), Latin America Solidarity Campaign, and Environmental Paper Network, who together claimed the Irish company had engaged in a “destructive land grab, inflicting social and environmental damage” on the communities of Cauca in southwestern Colombia.

Demonstrating outside the Smurfit Kappa’s AGM, activists featured a video of Cauca Indigenous leader Pedro Josse Velasco Tumiña, calling on company shareholders to ask the Smurfit Kappa what it is doing to address the demands of impacted communities.

With a strong presence across Europe, Smurfit Kappa is the only large-scale pan-regional player in Latin America. Speaking to the  Irish Examiner, the company said, “Smurfit Kappa has proudly operated in Colombia since 1944 and currently employs approximately 7,300 people including direct and indirect jobs. 

“We own 68,000 hectares of land, 45,000 hectares are planted with commercial forests and 23,000 hectares are natural forests. Smurfit Kappa has been a long-term contributor and investor in the local community and has enjoyed positive relations in the region through our involvement in environmental, educational and social initiatives.”

“Given the positive relations with these communities, the unlawful invasions of July 2021 by the Misak indigenous community which caused significant damage to our forestry including areas of natural protected forestry land, were entirely unexpected. Since those unlawful invasions we have been clear that we are willing to engage with the Misak community.”

The company added that a mediation dialogue has been established involving members of the Misak community, in which three meetings have already taken place, with more to come.

“Even with this very positive step, regrettably, the illegal invasions of our forestry are continuing with resulting damage to the local ecosystem.

“Smurfit Kappa remains committed to the independent dialogue process and we believe that peaceful co-existence can be restored in the region.”

As part of the company’s AGM, Smurfit Kappa said its operating profits climbed by 17% following another strong quarter, increasing to €412m in Q1, 2023.

In a trading update on Friday, the group reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of €579m, up 13% on the first three months of 2022.

This is despite a 7% fall in box volumes due to falling demand, which were offset by resilient prices and an easing of the firm’s energy costs.

“As anticipated, first quarter demand was broadly in line with the fourth quarter of 2022,” said chief executive Tony Smurfit said in a trading update ahead of its annual meeting.

“Smurfit Kappa has never been better positioned to continue to develop and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves either through organic investments or acquisitions.”

The company’s EBITDA margin grew by more than 2% compared the same period last year, exceeding 19%, with the return on the firm’s employed capital reported rising to 21.6%.

The group reported a net debt of €2.94bn at the end of the reporting period, equating to 1.2% of the company’s EBITDA for the previous 12 months.

Last April, Smurfit Kappa decided to exit the Russian market in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, a move that the group said was finalised in its latest trading update, resulting in a hit of €128m, according to its 2022 annual report.

Commenting on the group’s Q1 performance, Mr Smurfit added, “This performance reflects the continuing benefits of our integrated model, the effectiveness of our capital spend, our constant focus on innovation for customers and our geographic footprint.”

Source link

Comments are closed.