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In 2016 APRIL implemented its grievance mechanism after consultation with local and international NGOs, and published its Grievance Resolution Procedure (GRP). The GRP provides external stakeholders, especially local communities, a transparent way to raise their concerns related to APRIL’s operations and those of its suppliers.

Ika Citra Marlina - APRIL Sustainability Professional Development Program 2018

A grievance mechanism is an important element of any company’s stakeholder engagement process. It allows the company to engage continuously with stakeholders, therefore creating opportunities to prove that their concerns are taken seriously and that the company is willing to find a solution together. This process creates trust between the company and stakeholders and strengthens the social license to operate.

Three years after its launch it was recognized that there was a need to assess the effectiveness of APRIL’s grievance mechanism. The aim was to ensure that the mechanism had the right resources, handled grievances in a fair and transparent manner, addressed the relevant stakeholders and issues and most importantly to ensure that APRIL met the eight effectiveness criteria under the UN Guiding Principle applicable to company grievance mechanisms.

The project, assigned to me as my first rotation project under the APRIL Professional Sustainability Development Program, aimed to identify and analyze gaps in APRIL’s current grievance mechanism in order to make it more effective.

Having a grievance mechanism and ensuring it is effective are two different things. A company can design and implement its grievance SOP without ever meeting the purpose of having the mechanism in the first place. When an effective grievance mechanism exists it can help to identify and resolve issues before they become bigger and more serious. It will also help to analyze the trends and prevent recurrent issues in the future.

For a grievance mechanism to be effective, it needs to fulfill eight criteria under the UN’s guiding principles for company grievance mechanisms:

Criteria Definition
Legitimate “Enabling trust from stakeholders groups for whose use they are intended, and being accountable for the fair conduct of grievance process.”
Accessible “Being known to all stakeholders groups for whose use they are intended, and providing adequate assistance for those who may face particular barriers to access.”
Predictable “Providing a clear and known procedure with an indicative time frame for each stage, and clarity on the types of process and outcome available and means of monitoring implementation.”
Equitable “Seeking to ensure that aggrieved parties have reasonable access to sources of information, advice and expertise necessary to engage in a grievance process on fair, informed and respectful terms.”
Transparent “Keeping parties to a grievance informed about its progress, and providing sufficient information about the mechanism’s performance to build confidence in its effectiveness to meet any public interest at stake.”
Rights – Compatible “Ensuring that outcomes and remedies accord with internationally recognized human rights.”
Source of continuous learning “Drawing on relevant measures to identify lessons for improving the mechanism and preventing future grievances and harms.”
Based on engagement and dialogue “Consulting the stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended on their design and performance, and focusing on dialogue as the means to address and resolve grievances.”

For this project I was given the responsibility to design the approach and methodology. I undertook preliminary research and benchmarking because the mechanism needs to be evidence based. I also used grievance diagnostic tools to do a gap analysis and included consultation visits with local communities. Throughout the project I got full support from APRIL which gave me the resources I needed to complete the objective. My mentor was always keen for discussion, open to ideas, and encouraged me to tackle every challenge.

One of the most exciting things during this project was when I went to visit communities for a consultation. I visited 10 villages and met more than 60 people from the communities to discuss the grievance mechanism. Each village had different social and economic circumstances, making each visit unique. The idea was to have an open consultation with the community stakeholders on such a serious matter but in a casual setting. This allowed community members to relax and be more open in communicating their concerns and feedback.

But different communities also needed different approaches to engagement. Some communities communicated differently from the other, some were more direct, and some were more reluctant in sharing their thoughts. Overall, I found the consultation visits to be a crucial factor in evaluating the effectiveness of one’s grievance mechanism because the feedback came firsthand from the users or target audiences’ experiences.

The project made a number of recommendations designed to improve the effectiveness of APRIL’s current grievance SOP. I also had to present results to the Director of Sustainability. The recommendations will be considered as revisions to the SOP and are likely to be implemented soon by APRIL’s Sustainability team.

Ika Citra Marlina joined APRIL’s Sustainability Professional Development Programme in 2018 after completing a Master’s in Public Administration at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. For more information on APRIL’s Sustainability Professional Development Programme click here

You can read Ika’s previous blog post, “Why Sustainability?” Why I Joined APRIL’s Sustainability Professional Development Programme, here

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