Grievance mechanisms: Responsible growth paths - policies and practices from the extractive sector


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The presentation of Emma Blackmore, a researcher in IIED’s Sustainable Markets Group and project lead of Shaping Sustainable Markets, at a Business Humanitarian Forum event on "Responsible Growth Paths: Policies and Practices from the Extractive Sector’ held in Geneva on 15 and 16 May, 2014.

This presentation gave an overview of IIED’s research on the design and implementation of company-community grievance mechanisms in oil and gas, mining and forestry, taking lessons from cases in Russia, Azerbaijan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines and Indonesia.

More information on the Sustainable Markets Group can be found here:

More information on Shaping Sustainable Markets can be found here:

For more event information:

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Grievance mechanisms: Responsible growth paths - policies and practices from the extractive sector

  1. 1. Dispute or Dialogue? 1 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Responsible Growth Paths: Policies and Practices from the Extractive Sector Emma Blackmore, IIED Grievance mechanisms
  2. 2. Dispute or Dialogue? 2 Emma Blackmore May 2014 ‘Landscape’ of GMs International institutional mechanisms: e.g. OECD National Contact Points. (Multi)-industry level mechanisms: e.g. Ethical Trading Initiative, RSPO Company and project based mechanisms National level mechanisms: e.g. National Human Rights Institutions Classification of non-judicial grievance mechanisms (Rees and Vermijs, 2008). Institutional level Operationa l level • SO what do we mean when we talk about a company-community GM? Defined as: a process or set of processes for receiving, evaluating and addressing grievances from affected communities, in a timely and consistent manner at the site or operational level. The mechanism may be wholly or partially run by the company. Grievances might be real or perceived: the latter may be a source of acute anxiety for communities and can be addressed through dialogue and provision of timely and accurate information (IFC, ICMM and IPEICA).
  3. 3. Dispute or Dialogue? 3 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Dispute or dialogue? • Research carried out by IIED and partners (2011-2013) • Sought to understand: o Trends in, and drivers for, use of GMs by companies o Focussed on a number of case studies: sectors o Understand community perspectives on effectiveness of GMs: GAP o Offer recommendations on design and implementation Methodology: desk research, telephone interviews with experts, field visits, community interviews, focus groups with CSOs
  4. 4. Dispute or Dialogue? 4 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Trends in use of GMs • implementation of company-led GMs • Broadening – wider application e.g. to all sites –e.g. Anglo American and requirement for contractors • Deepening – more purposeful application of GMs – • Seeking to understand root causes not just dealing with symptoms – not mechanical • Dealing with more than just small issues • Seeing a genuine shift in corporate culture as a result of the GM • Contributing to companies’ learning to inform practice • Constituting an important part of companies overall approach to meaningful stakeholder engagement.
  5. 5. Dispute or Dialogue? 5 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Drivers for use • Case studies revealed a wide variety of drivers: cases: certification, lenders, internal drivers. Or multiple working in combination. • Ruggie’s Protect, Respect and Remedy framework – formally endorsed by UN member states in the human rights council in 2011 and embedded elsewhere. Principle – remedy! • Lenders and standards for GMs – IFC PS, FSC (and sustainability rankings, reporting standards) • Inspired by increase in use of Alternative Dispute Resolution for employees and business partners. Why not then do the same for communities? • Recognition that judicial responses not always necessary or able to deliver best resolution (e.g. court not credible, expensive) • ICMM/industry associations requiring members to have a GM and supporting them in design, also IPEIC who have just published a toolkit
  6. 6. Dispute or Dialogue? 6 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Drivers for use • Last but not definitely not least….. business case for companies increasingly evident: • Reputational risk/shareholder value erosion • Operational delays • Future investment opportunities • Learning opportunity (internal drivers). Be better businesses, get SLTO. • Greatest costs to companies = operational delays • Most frequent costs = lost opportunities (expansion, future projects, sale of assets). • Overlooked costs = staff time. Cost savings: (Research by WRI): Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project, joint venture by Shell. Estimated savings of between US$44 and 66million due to an effective strategy to obtain community consent. GMs as an important tool to obtain and maintain consent.
  7. 7. Dispute or Dialogue? 7 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Good practice in design and implementation (1) Still relatively early days BUT emerging examples/elements of good practice: • Maintaining regular contact with communities: having well qualified and experienced staff on the ground, speak local languages, with excellent social skills, approachable • Companies are increasingly using ‘systems’ e.g. computerised technologies to collect data on grievances (number, nature of grievances), to understand effectiveness of GMs (e.g. company response times) • GMs being used as important source of learning. To understand root causes of conflict, inform business strategy, ultimately reduce business costs.
  8. 8. Dispute or Dialogue? 8 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Good practice in design and implementation (2) • Local ownership and locally-relevant design very important: respect traditional conflict resolution approaches and culturally appropriate forms of communication. Communities contribute to/feedback on design in some way. Multiple communication channels (verbal, written etc) in place. • Companies are investing in capacity building: internal and external – training internal staff and contractors on what’s needed and why, helping communities and CSOs that work with communities to understand how the GM works, how it can be accessed etc. • Diverse and independent verification and reporting: 3rd party monitoring and publishing results can improve legitimacy
  9. 9. Dispute or Dialogue? 9 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Challenges for design and implementation (1) • Buy-in of top managers (need for energy and direction from above) • Resources – staff time – less costly if company has already invested in stakeholder engagement • Balance between company-wide guidance/direction (which can be very useful and can clarify expectations of sites) and need for implementation that suits local contexts e.g. customary institutions • Human-rights compatibility. How to ensure it and measure it?
  10. 10. Dispute or Dialogue? 10 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Challenges (2) • Optimising transparency in lesson learning/continuous learning and protecting complainant confidentiality • Role of government and companies: needs to be clear to all stakeholders, but particularly communities (e.g. land issues). Managing expectations on what the companies’ responsibilities are. • Assessing broader impacts on society and human rights. Are communities more aware of their rights and empowered to seek recourse via GM and other means? [policy influence, right to self determination, legal challenges]
  11. 11. Dispute or Dialogue? 11 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Recommendations • No one size fits all! But some common elements from our research: • Use existing guidance – don’t reinvent the wheel (Ruggie. Access Facility, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, CAO guides, Harvard, ICMM, IPEICA, IFC, Centre for Social Responsibility in mining at University of Queensland). • Recognise that GMs are part of a broader suite of tools for community engagement (e.g. FPIC, community development programmes, EIAs etc) . “GMs should not be thought of as a substitute for a company’s community engagement process or vice versa. The two are complementary and should be mutually reinforcing’ (IFC). • GMs as a platform for dialogue, (and therefore prevention of grievances) not just resolving specific grievances. Prevention better than cure! Can be used to maintain a company’s social licence to operate. • Capacity building: clarity on role of governments versus company – some issues cannot and should not be resolved by companies. Make clear to communities what these responsibilities are and engage with government (e.g. on possible land issues that are gov responsibility). • Systems can be helpful: data collection across all sites on grievances (nature, number etc) can be v helpful – especially for learning but not at the expense of contact with communities and social skills at community level and at higher levels.
  12. 12. Dispute or Dialogue? 12 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Recommendations • Design principles from headquarters can also be helpful to encourage some consistency and good practice in design and implementation. • Develop GMs at local level with local involvement (e.g. local leaders, consider locally enshrined dispute resolution and discussion practices) • Staff recruitment crucial: need social expertise, knowledge of local communities, trained in GM systems, knowledge about risks and opportunities of projects etc. Quality of staff on the ground a big determinant in effectiveness of GM. • Use GMs as a learning tool • Third party monitoring and mediation options are needed for legitimacy/accountability
  13. 13. Dispute or Dialogue? 13 Emma Blackmore May 2014 Looking ahead • Big challenge and push for measuring effectiveness • Assessing quality of outcomes not just process (communities may be satisfied with process, but not outcomes) (Criteria in UNGPs focussed on process). • But how to measure? And how to ensure this leads to meaningful change across all sites? Community perspectives are key