Building Capacity on the UN Guiding Principles in Ghana

Shift was pleased to support the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana in 2014 to advance business respect for human rights. CHRAJ is Ghana’s National Human Rights Institution with a mandate to promote and protect fundamental human rights and freedoms in Ghana. In implementing this mandate, CHRAJ is closely involved in national discussions about business and human rights and implementation of the Guiding Principles by the government and businesses operating in Ghana.

The presence of a number of extractive and agribusiness companies has brought heightened attention to preventing and addressing business impacts on society in Ghana. There is relevant experience on both the company and civil society sides engaging on these issues, and CHRAJ had identified opportunities to strengthen capacity across all three key stakeholder groups – government, business and civil society – in understanding and implementing the Guiding Principles.

In 2014, Shift and CHRAJ jointly organized three capacity building workshops for stakeholder groups on the Guiding Principles in Accra. Shift and CHRAJ collaborated with the Dutch NGO, the Centre for Research on Multinational Enterprises (SOMO), which hosts the OECD Watch network, in delivering the civil society capacity building workshop.

Our reporting program, begun in 2016, includes Ghana as a focus country — learn more about the initiative.

Remediation, Grievance Mechanisms and the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights


In the Guiding Principles, the term remediation is used to refer to the process or act of providing remedy. It should not be confused with “remediation” in the context of social audits, where the concept includes (and typically focuses on) forward-looking actions to prevent a non-compliance from recurring. 

At its core, the concept of remedy aims to restore individuals or groups that have been harmed – in this case by a business’s activities – to the situation they would have been in had the impact not occurred. Where this is not possible, it can involve compensation or other forms of remedy.

As the Guiding Principles set out, “remedy” in the judicial context is understood to include: “apologies, restitution, rehabilitation, financial or non-financial compensation, and punitive sanctions (whether criminal or administrative, such as fines), as well the prevention of harm through, for example, injunctions or guarantees of non-repetition.” These forms of remedy are relevant – or have equivalents in the case of punitive actions – also in the context of non-judicial mechanisms, with the exception of criminal sanctions. 

Understanding the Business Responsibility for Remedy

The Guiding Principles make clear that a company’s responsibility to provide for remedy depends upon its connection to the human rights impact that has occurred: “Where business enterprises identify that they have caused or contributed to adverse impacts, they should provide for or cooperate in their remediation through legitimate processes,” (Guiding Principle 22).

Where the company has neither caused nor contributed to an impact, but the impact is nevertheless linked directly to its operations, products or services, there is no responsibility under the Guiding Principles to provide for or contribute to a remedy. A company may choose to contribute to remedy in these situations for other reasons – humanitarian, commercial, reputational or other – but this is not grounded in their responsibility to respect human rights.

Understanding and assessing the nature of a company’s responsibility with respect to a specific impact can therefore be an important step in determining a company’s responsibility to provide remedy. Few companies have systematic approaches for analyzing the nature of their responsibility. One company representative observed that, “Our incident management systems are primarily designed to see if an impact occurred, but we have no systematic way of analyzing what our role with the impact may have been.”

Mapping the Place of a Grievance Mechanism

Where companies have caused or contributed to an impact, they have a responsibility to provide or contribute to remedy for those who have been harmed. Primarily, the way companies have understood this responsibility is the need to establish grievance mechanisms, through which affected stakeholders can raise and seek redress for impacts that have occurred. 

The internal “ecosystem” for remediation

Internal policies and processes that may already exist and provide a channel for receiving complaints and/or for addressing them include:

  • Whistle-blower / ethics hotlines
  • Employee ombudsman / human resources complaints processes
  • Open Door / Speak up policies
  • Trade Unions / Industrial Relations processes
  • Consumer complaints mechanisms
  • Community facing grievance mechanisms
  • Business-to-Business contract clauses with dispute resolution provisions
  • Code of Conduct requirements for supplier mechanisms
  • Audit processes (and worker interviews)
  • Supply chain hotlines
  • Stakeholder engagement (at the site level and the policy level)

Mapping the internal ecosystem for remediation serves a number of purposes:

  • Increasing internal comfort with the concept
  • Identifying gaps
  • Learning from existing processes
  • Ensuring connectivity: impacts and grievances are channeled to the right people to be addresses, and the business has full visibility into its human rights impacts.

The external “landscape” for remediation 

Just as companies can look at the internal ecosystem as they consider strengthening or augmenting existing remediation processes, they can likewise look at the “external landscape” for remediation in different operational contexts.

States have critical roles to play in ensuring that effective judicial and non-judicial processes are present. They do so through national court systems and statutory and regulatory bodies, such as national human rights institutions, labor dispute bodies, as well as through administrative mechanisms such the National Contact Points (NCPs) of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Public financial institutions and multi-stakeholder initiatives may also provide accountability mechanisms and grievance processes to enable those affected by their clients’ or members’ business activities to raise concerns and seek redress for impacts. 

Operational-level grievance mechanisms administered or co-administered by companies sit within this landscape – as non-state-based, non-judicial mechanisms, which should be primarily dialogue based in nature. 

Operational-Level Grievance Mechanisms

Operational-level grievance mechanisms are a systematic means of providing remediation processes.

This resource does not seek to provide full treatment of how to make operational-level mechanisms effective. However, some key areas to keep in mind include:

  • Need for effective management system of the grievance mechanism
  • Determining scope for the grievance mechanism
  • Considering how to talk about the grievance mechanism
  • Designing the system with an holistic and integrated, rather than silo’ed, approach
  • Ensuring an escalation process
  • Using the effectiveness criteria (set out in the Guiding Principles)
  • Connecting grievance mechanisms with stakeholder engagement
  • Getting started by knowing where you currently are

Roles and Responsibilities for Remedy in the Value Chain

When impacts occur within a company’s value chain, businesses often find themselves in a “linkage” situation: that is, the company has not caused or contributed to the impact, but the impact is directly linked to the company’s operations products or services.

In such circumstances, businesses should first confirm that it is indeed a situation of linkage, and not contribution. For instance, in the supply chain context, companies can in some instances contribute to impacts that occur at the supplier level, for example, through their purchasing practices or payment terms.

In these circumstances, companies can play an important role in incentivizing those in their value chain to provide effective grievance mechanisms. This is likely to be easier in relation to suppliers than in downstream relationships.

Ways companies incentivize suppliers to establish grievance mechanisms may include:

  • Making expectations of grievance mechanisms clear in contracts or codes of conduct;
  • Including review of grievance mechanisms during assessments;
  • Offering capacity building for suppliers on grievance mechanisms;
  • Providing a recourse mechanism (like a hotline) if local grievance mechanisms are inadequate.

Supporting Effective Factory-Level Grievance Mechanisms With the Better Work Programme

Over the past several years, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Better Work Programme has been working with apparel factories in several developing economies to improve compliance with international labor standards and competitiveness in global supply chains. Better Work’s Enterprise Advisors engage with factory management and workers to improve industrial relations, strengthen systems and processes, and support sustainable improvements in working conditions at the factory level.

One important tool for achieving these objectives is effective grievance mechanisms, which can play an important role in identifying, preventing and remediating issues of concern on the factory floor. Factory-level grievance mechanisms can help support workers’ ability to raise concerns and seek remedy in the workplace, enable factory management to understand and address those issues before they escalate, and provide global brands and retailers with an important source of data about factory conditions in their supply chains and help build confidence that suppliers have the systems in place to prevent and address their human rights risks.

As the Guiding Principles make clear, such mechanisms should not undermine the role of legitimate trade unions; indeed, industrial relations processes involving management and those unions are themselves a form of grievance mechanism.

In collaboration with Better Work staff, Shift developed a manual for Enterprise Advisors to integrate guidance on effective factory-level grievance mechanisms into the support that Better Work provides to factories. The practical guidance is intended to enable Enterprise Advisors to facilitate and accompany factory management and workers through the process of understanding what effective grievance mechanisms are, how they can contribute to improved worker-management engagement, with an emphasis on supporting and involving trade unions, and key steps in designing and implementing such mechanisms.

Shift led a capacity-building workshop for a representative group of Enterprise Advisors from Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lesotho in Jakarta in November 2013 provided continuing support to those Advisors as they worked with factories in the months following the workshop.

Also see: resources on remedy and grievance mechanisms

European Commission Sector Guides on Implementing the Guiding Principles

The link above leads to all three guidance documents in English. There are also a few unofficial translations of these guides: Japanese: ICT sector | French: oil and gas sector

While implementing the Guiding Principles is very specific to each company, there are common challenges and strategies by industry or sector. These guidance documents feature “a to z” guidance for companies in three sectors: information and communication technology (ICT), oil and gas, and employment and recruitment. The guides were developed through an extensive process of multistakeholder consultation.

Learn more about the collaboration that supported the development of these resources.

Dispute or Dialogue? Community Perspectives on Company-Led Grievance Mechanisms

This book includes a foreword and overview chapter authored by members of the Shift team. The summary below is excerpted from the resource.


What is a company– community grievance mechanism?

We define a company–community grievance mechanism 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.

Extractive industry companies and their investors increasingly see a strong business case for building good relations with local communities, and addressing conflict and potential conflict in a timely and effective manner. This involves engaging meaningfully with communities affected by project operations, so as to build trust and to respond appropriately to any local concerns, major or minor. If left unaddressed even minor complaints may escalate into disputes or even violent conflict. This is potentially devastating for local communities. From the company perspective, it can also result in damage to its reputation, a loss of operational time and money, and it can put future investment opportunities at risk.

Effective channels by which local communities can voice their concerns about a project — and get these concerns addressed — are particularly important. In general the only formal mechanisms by which citizens can challenge the activities of extractive companies tend to be those available under host country legislation. However, courts and tribunals in host countries, particularly in developing countries and emerging economies, can be inefficient, corrupt or reluctant to interfere with extractive industry activities (Schwarte and Wilson, 2009). This can result in increased conflict and resentment among host communities, which may be a key legacy challenge when one company acquires a project from another.

Leading oil and gas, mining and forestry companies are starting to establish their own formal mechanisms to address and resolve local citizens’ grievances. Grievance mechanisms provide a channel for concerns to be identified and addressed before they escalate. As part of an effective overall community engagement strategy, they can help to build trust with stakeholders, reduce operational risks and enhance management of project impacts and community relations.

Frequently companies establish grievance mechanisms in order to comply with the formal requirements of project finance and international certification initiatives, which address conflict resolution and human rights protection. Since 2006, for example, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) requires its clients — companies that receive project finance — to set up and administer procedures to address project-related grievances from affected communities. Other international financial institutions have similar requirements. The environmental management systems standard ISO 14001 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification standard both require certified companies to establish company–community grievance mechanisms.

More recently, a major influence on the adoption and development of grievance mechanisms, and on public awareness, has been the work of Professor John Ruggie in his role as UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, and the UN Human Rights Council’s endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN/OHCHR, 2011) (see Chapter 2).

There is a growing body of literature on company– community grievance mechanisms, supported by online resources such as BASESwiki (transferred to the ACCESS platform in 2013).

In general, there is a need for more long-term analysis of the implementation, impact and effectiveness of grievance mechanisms, including analysis of the broader societal impacts beyond day-to-day resolution of grievances. Having identified in particular a lack of material on the community perspectives on company-led grievance mechanisms — their effectiveness and impact on sustainable development and livelihoods locally — IIED sought to address this by undertaking and commissioning the research in this book, with case studies based on a mix of desk-research, interviews and fieldwork.

Chapter 2 is a review of the current literature and experience of grievance mechanisms. Based on desk-research and interviews with company and industry experts, it explores definitions of the term ‘grievance mechanism’; some history behind the evolution of grievance mechanisms including alternative dispute resolution; key drivers, standards and guidance for their design and use; and consideration of future trends in grievance mechanism development. This is followed by a series of four chapters focusing on case studies in the oil and gas, mining, and forestry sectors.

Chapter 3 covers the grievance mechanism run by BP in Azerbaijan for the 1,768km Baku–Tbilisi– Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which passes through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The BTC pipeline project has been the focus of considerable international scrutiny by civil society organisations and project lenders, due to its size and impact and international profile. The project has benefited from investing in civil society capacity building during the construction phase, which has enabled informed dialogue between the company and civil society over the years. The case study highlights the need to balance government and company responsibilities in resolving grievances. It also demonstrates how a major international project such as this can positively influence government practice.

Chapter 4 is a case study of the company Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), which manages around 1.4 million hectares of tropical forest concessions in the northern Republic of Congo. The company achieved its first FSC certificate in 2006 and full certification in 2010. FSC has been a key driver for CIB to establish a grievance mechanism for resolving land-related disputes and for providing fair compensation for loss or damage to property, livelihoods and resources. This case study demonstrates how grievance mechanisms can be based on existing community structures and underscores the need to respect traditional conflict resolution approaches.

Chapter 5 relates to the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project in the Russian Far East. Like the BTC project, Sakhalin-2 has used project finance, and has come under considerable international scrutiny and criticism, but is also seen as a pioneer of community engagement in Russia. This case study analyses the experience of the operating company, Sakhalin Energy, in addressing grievances and building a dialogue with the indigenous peoples in the north of the island. This is then compared to a conflict that has developed with a (non-indigenous) dacha community located close to a liquefied natural gas plant in the south of the island. The case study provides an example of a well-functioning grievance mechanism, but highlights the need to understand the full range of complexities associated with building dialogue with communities, including outside the grievance resolution process.

Chapter 6 considers the effectiveness of three different grievance mechanisms and stakeholder engagement processes implemented by mining companies. The first is Anglo American’s approach to stakeholder engagement, its grievance mechanism and the computerised system employed to manage grievances. The second is TVIRD in the Philippines, which demonstrates the value of building on local and traditional modes of communication and dispute management to create culturally appropriate grievance mechanisms. The third case, Kaltim Prima Coal in Indonesia, illustrates the ‘governance gaps’ that exist in a number of developing countries that a company–community grievance mechanism can help to fill.

The book’s findings demonstrate the importance of having an open and responsive overall approach to stakeholder engagement within which a grievance mechanism can be employed effectively. The book offers examples of successful approaches for enhancing dialogue — from civil society capacity building to designing engagement around traditional decision-making processes, as well as system innovations such as electronic logging, which facilitate the monitoring and management of grievance resolution within the company. The book considers community conflict with an eye to understanding the mechanics and the challenges of how company– community engagement takes place in practice. It also offers local perspectives on the implementation of standards and processes that are frequently analysed primarily at the level of system or process. As such the book offers a fresh take on a growing body of literature on company–community grievance mechanisms.

Supporting the Norwegian OECD National Contact Point

Shift was pleased to provide support to the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) as it underwent a formal peer review process in 2013 in line with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Representatives of the NCPs of Canada, Belgium, Colombia, Netherlands and the UK were official members of the peer review delegation. Hungary, Mexico and the OECD Secretariat also participated as observers. In January 2014, the delegation submitted its final report.

Shift provided support in two main ways:

  • Working collaboratively with the Norwegian NCP to support the design, preparation and implementation of the peer review process and to document that process;
  • As a credible, constructive and independent analyst of the information gathered during the process, to report on the strengths and shortcomings of the NCP and provide recommendations for the NCP going forward. This analysis fed directly into the final report by the delegation.

Also see:

How to Use the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Company Research and Advocacy: A Guide for Civil Society Organisations

The summary is excerpted from the resource.


The objective of this guide is to help civil society organisations (CSOs) use the Guiding Principles in their research, campaigns, engagement and advocacy towards companies and governments. By using the Guiding Principles in corporate research, campaigning, engagement and advocacy, CSOs can play an indispensable role as a countervailing power in confronting companies with their responsibility to respect internationally recognised human rights and ensuring they are held to account to meet their responsibility and improve their behaviour. Thereby, CSOs can contribute to making the Guiding Principles of real value for rights holders likely to be negatively affected by corporate activities.

Furthermore, by using the Guiding Principles in their research and advocacy and building up expertise, CSOs will be able to provide national and international authorities with useful insights in the strengths and weaknesses of the Guiding Principles, helping to improve the international business and human rights framework in due course.

Respecting Human Rights Through Global Supply Chains


The UN Guiding Principles state that companies may be involved with adverse human rights impacts either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships. ‘Business Relationships’ are understood to include relationships with “entities in [the company’s] value chain.” As part of their corporate responsibility to respect human rights, companies are expected not only to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts, but also to address, “human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”

Adverse human rights impacts can occur at any level of a supply chain – from the first tier of direct or strategic suppliers, all the way down via multiple layers of sub-suppliers and sub-contractors, to those providing the raw material inputs. For some companies, relationships with suppliers are held by their licensees, or may be intermediated by vendors or other agents, creating yet more complex structures. To meet their responsibility to respect human rights, companies need to understand human rights risks at all levels of their supply chain – not only in the first tier.

This resource examines how companies can work to implement the Guiding Principles across their business relationships through the following activity areas:

  • Identifying risks: mapping and prioritizing within the supply chain;
  • Leveraging and incentivizing sustainable change in suppliers;
  • Applying these approaches in sensitive, high-risk contexts;
  • Achieving internal alignment within and across the business;
  • Supporting grievance mechanisms with respect to supply chains.

Identifying Risks: Mapping and Prioritizing Within the Supply Chain

The corporate responsibility to respect human rights requires companies to conduct human rights due diligence to identify, address and mitigate adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved through their business relationships. However, in most cases, it is simply not feasible for a company to conduct due diligence for the entirety of its supply chain – particularly where supply chain relationships may number into the thousands, tens of thousands, or more. Companies therefore often need to prioritize those business relationships for which it is most critical to conduct human rights due diligence. However, as a first step, they need to know who is in their supply chains.

Many companies have established, or are in the process of establishing, centralized systems for tracking the “moving target” of their supply chains. While these systems can be housed centrally, the inputs into that system must come from a variety of decentralized sources. Company leaders note the need for internal and external buy-in for a collaborative approach to mapping the supply chain. Internally, this means engaging across the different business functions that might interact directly with the supply chain. Externally, this requires the authentic engagement of one’s own suppliers in the mapping exercise. In developing that buy-in, company leaders emphasize the critical importance of spending as much time on the “why” as on the “how” – conveying an underlying rationale for the importance of mapping the supply chain that resonates for key audiences. Specifically, they have found that simply contractually obligating suppliers to disclose their supply chains, while necessary, has proven ineffective and inadequate.

Prioritizing Relationships for Due Diligence

Given the sheer scale of many companies’ supply chains, those with responsibility for managing human rights issues within supply chains can face a daunting task. The pressing question for many company leaders is simply: Where do I begin?

As a practical reality, most large companies will almost certainly need to prioritize the management of human rights risks within their supply chain. That prioritization may take place at several levels, including prioritizing which areas of the supply chain to map, which business relationships may need to be prioritized for a more detailed assessment of potential human rights risks, and which adverse human rights impacts may need to be prioritized for prevention and mitigation.

In prioritizing which business relationships and which adverse impacts to address, prevalent company practices focus first and foremost on risks to the business. Many companies define their supply chain due diligence priorities based on their “top spend” suppliers or their top tier, strategic suppliers, or other factors that suggest their leverage with the supplier is greatest. Others focus on relationships that pose greatest risk to their own reputation, such as suppliers of products carrying their own brand, or issues where public pressure and mobilization are greatest.

While this can make intuitive business sense, applying a human rights lens to due diligence requires a different set of calculations, instead of, or in addition to, approaches based on business risk. When assessing human rights risk, companies should start by assessing risk from the perspective of potentially affected stakeholders, based on the severity and likelihood of potential impacts. These adverse impacts – the most severe and most likely – may not be occurring among a company’s top tier suppliers, where a company has more leverage to compel mitigation measures, but may be deeper within the supply chain, even several steps removed from a direct relationship with the company, and where leverage is lacking. Learn more about how to identify the most severe potential impacts on people in this video about salient human rights issues.

Managing Human Rights Risks in Supply Chains: Leverage and Sustainable Change

Once potential human rights risks in the supply chain are identified, all companies face challenges in figuring out, simply put, “what works?”. An initial challenge may arise in generating sufficient leverage with suppliers to influence their practices.

Finding and Increasing Leverage

Where a company has identified that it may be linked to an adverse human rights impact through its supply chain and that it has leverage over the supplier in question, the Guiding Principles require a company to exercise that leverage to prevent or mitigate the adverse impact. Where it lacks the leverage, the company should look to increase its leverage in order to be in a position to prevent or mitigate the impact.

Read more on leverage on p.13 in the resource, or check out our dedicated resource on the topic of leverage.

Beyond Compliance Auditing and Towards Sustainable Improvement – What Works?

For many years, companies attempted to manage human rights performance in their supply chains through compliance auditing. However, research points to the clear conclusion that compliance auditing alone is insufficient to promote sustainable improvements on issues of social performance.

This is not to suggest that compliance audits do not have an appropriate role to play in managing human rights performance in supply chains. Audits can serve as a tool for identifying current shortfalls in standards. But they are only ever a snapshot in time. As one company representative summarized, his message to suppliers is: “It’s what happens after the audit that matters. If you improve, there will be continued and expanding commercial opportunities with us. If you don’t improve, then you will not continue to be our supplier.”

Other companies have shifted their emphasis away from a reliance on compliance auditing towards more collaborative approaches, working with suppliers to assess gaps, build capacity, and incentivize sustainable improvements. One company pointed to more extensive “systems gap analysis” audits conducted by some firms, in which the company and the supplier share the cost of the audit.

Read more about going beyond auditing in our dedicated resource on this topic.

Managing Supply Chains in High-Risk Contexts

Multinational companies frequently find that commercial interests make it desirable to initiate or expand operations in high-risk contexts. For extractive companies that have to locate themselves where the natural resources are, operating in such contexts is increasingly unavoidable. High-risk contexts typically include conflict-affected zones, where security issues are prevalent, the state is unable to fulfill its duty to protect, and the rule of law is weak. They also include other contexts with clear and severe risks to the fulfillment of human rights, which may be denied either in law or in practice.

While the same principles for managing human rights risks in supply chains more generally apply also in these contexts, the costs of not getting it right can be much higher – not only in terms of the reputational risk to the company, but also in terms of the potential severity (scale, scope and irremediability) of adverse human rights impacts on individuals.

Learn more about human rights due diligence in high-risk circumstances in our dedicated resource on this topic.

Internal Alignment Within and Across a Business Enterprise

While discussions of human rights challenges in supply chains often focus on the suppliers themselves, there are important dimensions internal to the buying company that can increase or reduce human rights risks. Central to these are the company’s own purchasing practices. There may in some instances be inherent tensions between the commercial interests that guide buying decisions and the avoidance of human rights harms. If left unreconciled, these can place the company in a situation of actively contributing to human rights impacts by its suppliers.

Examples may include making late changes to the design of a product or to the volume or an order without taking into account the consequences for the supplier in terms of time and costs, which may mean the company could contribute to any resulting adverse impacts such as excess hours, unpaid overtime or illegal sub-contracting. Or, for an extractive company sourcing security services, poor decisions or misleading messages with regard to the treatment of local communities that it expects from the external security providers may leave the company in the position of contributing to any adverse human rights impacts that result.

Embedding the Responsibility with Those Who Make Purchasing Decisions

In the experience of many companies, reconciling the internal tensions that can exist between commercial drivers for procurement decisions and the company’s responsibility to respect human rights can only occur if that responsibility to respect is embedded with those who make procurement decisions.

Some consumer goods companies – in which purchasing departments play a central role in creating value for the company – have chosen to locate the human rights function within those departments, or have allocated specific human resources to those departments to address these issues from within. In another such company, the human rights function reviews all purchase orders after they have been submitted and compares them against a rating system. If it determines that the order might be inconsistent with the company’s human rights commitments it has the authority to cancel or reroute the order.

Ultimately, however, the successful integration of human rights considerations comes down to individual buyers making individual decisions that need to incorporate this added human rights dimension into the business formula.

Read more about strategies to embed respect for human rights in procurement functions on page 20 of this resource.

The Role for Grievance Mechanisms with Respect to Supply Chains

A basic requirement of the Guiding Principles is that companies engage actively in ensuring access to effective remedy for adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute. Many companies, industry- and multistakeholder initiatives require that grievance processes are available at the level of suppliers as well. However, by their own admission, these efforts have not generally included practical guidance to suppliers; nor conveyed the value of effective complaints processes; nor ensured that their quality is sufficient.

Read more about the business case for suppliers to have effective grievance mechanisms, as the case for companies to support supplier-level grievance mechanisms, on page 25 of the resource, or our dedicated resource on grievance mechanisms.

Corporate-Community Dialogue: Documentary Series

Corporate-Community Dialogue: An Introduction from ACCESS Facility on Vimeo.

About the Series

This documentary series looks at how companies and communities have resolved disputes over corporate activities on three specific projects in Nigeria, Peru and the Philippines. The series includes one overview film of all the stories, and one film per story. These films tell the story of what happened on the ground in the words of the people who experienced it – the local community, the company and the dialogue facilitators that were asked to help.

In all three films, we hear stories from companies and communities that have found themselves in varying degrees of conflict and looked for a way out through dialogue. In each instance, the parties in conflict used a neutral third-party mediator to help them craft a process through which they could address concerns and progressively resolve their core conflicts.

Each film is about 40 minutes and they are hosted by ACCESS Facility. The individual films share the following stories:

Company-Community Dialogue: An Introduction: provides an overview of all three stories and finds common themes. Click embedded video above or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

Making Monkey Business: Building Company/Community Dialogue in the Philippines shares the story of a dispute resolution process with communities that were impacted by the building of the Ambuklao and Binga hydroelectric power plants in the Benguet Province of the Philippines. The mediated dialogue was facilitated by the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsmanof the World Bank Group and the mediation was conducted by the Conflict Resolution Group in the Philippines. Click embedded video below or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

Putting Ourselves in their Shoes: The Dialogue Table of Tintaya tells of the rising resentments among indigenous community members about a copper mine in the Peruvian Andes initially owned by the government and then owned by BHP Billiton (and now by Glencore Xstrata). It relates the process by which non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam Australia, Oxfam America, CooperAccion and Corecami entered the picture, and the important roles they played in helping give birth to the process and supporting the communities’ ability to engage effectively. Click embedded video below or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

The Only Government We See: Building Company-Community Dialogue in Nigeria tells the story of the negotiation of General Memoranda of Understanding (GMOUs) between Chevron and communities in the Niger Delta around its facilities. The process began after violent conflict in the region in 2003 led to the withdrawal of the company and the destruction of property, including schools and hospitals the company had built for communities. The film relates the role played by the head of the New Nigeria Foundation, a local NGO that came in to mediate the dialogue and help build the foundations for increased trust between those involved and addresses how and why the communities decided to engage in the dialogue, what progress and challenges emerged along the way, and the outcomes that have been achieved. Click embedded video below or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

These films were produced by the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School on behalf of the mandate of the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie. The films were produced with the generous support of the Government of Norway, the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the World Bank Group, the International Bar Association and the Government of Germany. The films are MATCH productions.

In November 2012 the series won “best communication or publication” award at the biennial Centre for Effective Dispute Resolutions awards ceremony held in London.

Piloting Principles for Effective Company-Stakeholders Grievance Mechanisms: A Report of Lessons Learned

This study reflects the findings of five on-the-ground pilot projects to examine what constitutes effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms. Its findings led to the eight principles of effectiveness for non-judicial grievance mechanisms, which are reflected in Guiding Principle 31 as the “effectiveness criteria.” The criteria are: legitimacy, accessibility, predictability, equitability, transparency, rights-compatibility, dialogue and engagement, continuous learning.

The summary below is excerpted from the resource.


This report sets out key lessons learned from a pilot project conducted in 2009-2010 to test the practical applicability of a set of principles for effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms that address complaints or disputes involving businesses and their stakeholders. The principles were developed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and set out in his reports to the Human Rights Council in 2008 (A/HRC/8/5) and 2009 (A/HRC/11/13).

The project was conducted on behalf of the Special Representative to help refine these principles in advance of their incorporation into a wider set of Guiding principles on business and human rights (A/HRC/17/31), which the Special Representative will present to the Human Rights Council in June 2011. The project focused on operational-level grievance mechanisms – that is, mechanisms developed by companies with/for stakeholders affected by their operations. The companies involved in the four main pilots to design or revise grievance mechanisms in line with the Special Representative’s principles were Carbones del Cerrejón, a coal mine in Colombia; Esquel Group, a Hong Kong-based garment company, working with its wholly-owned supplier in Viet Nam; Sakhalin Energy Investment Corporation, an oil and gas company in the Russian Federation; and Tesco Stores Ltd, a United Kingdom-based multinational supermarket chain, working with suppliers in South Africa. An adjunct project with Hewlett-Packard and two of its suppliers in China retrospectively analyzed their collaborative efforts to enhance suppliers’ grievance mechanisms and reviewed them in light of the Special Representative’s principles.

The purpose of the pilot project was to test the benefits of grievance mechanisms that are aligned with the Special Representative’s principles, and to learn lessons about how the principles could be further refined to reflect operational realities and enable their practical application. The extensive time spent in the process of designing or revising the grievance mechanisms meant that there was little time to monitor their operation in practice. Any such review will require further work in future. However, substantial lessons were gained from the processes undertaken. Those that are of most general relevance are summarized in this overarching report, while more specific and detailed learning is reflected in the individual reports of each project, which are attached in Annexes A to E.

  • Section I of this report expands on the background and purpose of the project, defines what is meant by “operational-level grievance mechanisms,” and sets out the principles that were tested.
  • Section II describes the methodology for the four main pilots (the separate methodology of the adjunct project is described in that specific report at Annex E).
  • Section III reflects cross-cutting lessons learned, setting them out under each principle in turn, and concluding with an explanation of how the principle was adjusted to reflect the learning (adjustments were limited to the extent that they had to be applicable, not only to operational-level mechanisms, but also to other kinds of non-judicial mechanisms covered by the principles).
  • Section IV offers a brief conclusion, and sets out the principles as revised.