Special risks in the production of millstones in Ethiopia

What are the risks to human rights in the Ethiopian millstone industry? Millstone manufacturer Engsko learned a lot about this in 15 years of manufacturing in Ethiopia.

Natural resources
Many of Ethiopia’s natural resources are under pressure. Water is one of them. This affects the right of the local population to clean drinking water and food. When Engsko built a factory, the company chose a solution with minimal water and energy consumption. Investments were made in new sources of water, and Engsko is converting to solar power on an ongoing basis. Every year, the company invests in improving energy efficiency by optimising production flow, purchasing new machinery, and using more energy efficient work processes.

Corruption and wages
Corruption is commonplace in Ethiopia, and Engsko engaged with both Danish and Ethiopian authorities to secure proper licences and permits prior to construction. To further minimise the risk of corruption issues, Engsko chose to purchase all raw materials for the factory from the offices in Denmark.

In general, child labour is a human rights risk in Ethiopia. Families often depend on their children’s earnings to make ends meet. Engsko has made sure that the employees in the Ethiopian factory are paid 15-20% above the local average, in order to help the employees and their families manage without their children having to work. Wage levels are calculated based on the local average wage, as stated by the factory’s local owner.

Work environment
Engsko’s industry carries a risk of an unhealthy work environment because of awkward work positions and the use of chemicals. The work can take its toll at an early age which is why the right information and safety precautions are important. Engsko makes sure that their employees know how to take care of themselves and lift the heavy stones correctly.

To ensure the implementation of these and other measures, a Danish Engsko employee was present at the factory for the first two years with the responsibility of training the factory’s employees and teaching Engsko values. Engsko’s strategy built a loyal and efficient workforce, which in turn provides better quality, efficiency, and competitive advantage for the company.

Benefits for people

  • Engsko’s activities do not put extra pressure on local clean drinking water and clean food
  • Employees receive a decent salary and can avoid sending their children to work
  • The employees at the factory learn how to take good care of themselves
  • Employees are not exposed to unnecessarily unhealthy chemicals on the job

Engsko on the business benefits from protecting human rights

“We did not want to have negative impacts on the local community when we started the factory. The Engsko factory should not operate at the expense of the local community. On the contrary, it should make a positive contribution.”

Henrik Wollesen, Director, Engsko

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