Using third parties to support the design and implementation of grievance mechanisms

27th June 2022

Today we have published a practical resource, produced in collaboration with The Remedy Project, on how to successfully use third parties to support the design and implementation of grievance mechanisms for voluntary sustainability standards and the private sector. The document also includes a framework on how to select a suitable third party.

As mandatory human rights due diligence laws, environmental, social and governance, and modern slavery reporting obligations evolve and strengthen, having an effective grievance mechanism in place can help businesses prevent, mitigate, and address risks in their supply chain. In October 2021, Bonsucro was awarded a grant from the ISEAL Innovations Fund, which is supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, for a project to share learning and good practice with other voluntary sustainability schemes on due diligence and grievance mechanisms. The project is a collaboration with the Responsible Jewellery Council. As part of the project, we commissioned The Remedy Project to produce a practical resource that we can share with our members and the wider community of sustainability standards.

The document supports voluntary sustainability standard setting organisations, businesses, or other industry groups to partner with a local third-party organisation to develop and/or implement a company or multi-stakeholder grievance mechanism that aligns with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP).

Principle 22 of the UNGP states that if companies have caused or contributed to an adverse human rights impact, they have a responsibility to provide or contribute to the remedy for those who have been harmed. A primary way in which companies can fulfil this responsibility is by establishing grievance mechanisms that affected stakeholders can use to raise issues and seek redress.

An effective grievance mechanism can support the early detection of human rights issues. It can help to mitigate risks, improve labour relations, create more inclusive supply chains, and demonstrate legal compliance.  However, affected stakeholders, including workers in global supply chains and local communities, may encounter barriers like language and financial accessibility, or a lack of trust in the process, that prevent them from accessing and using grievance mechanisms operated by private sector actors. As a result, grievance mechanisms may not fulfil their role of enhancing rightsholders’ access to remedy.

Working with a local partner to develop and implement a grievance mechanism can be a practical way to overcome these barriers and further align their mechanisms to the UNGP Effectiveness Criteria (Principle 31). The list of potential partners to support with a grievance mechanism is diverse, and includes trade unions, local civil society organisations, legal counsel mediators, specialist investigators and technology solutions providers.

Of the potential partners, civil society organisations can offer a key function. They can provide operators and developers of grievance mechanisms with essential insight into the perspectives and needs of rightsholders. In addition, instead of providing a specific service, civil society can bridge gaps in access by facilitating dialogue between business enterprises and rightsholders. The document we have published today focuses on how to identify and select the relevant civil society partners and build private sector civil society partnerships. The important roles of other third parties and service providers, including trade unions, are also noted, where relevant.

How was the resource developed?

The team at the Remedy Project undertook desk-based research on international standards and good practices in the operation and implementation of grievance mechanisms for private sector actors. The researchers also conducted interviews between March and June 2022 to understand the needs and experiences of key stakeholders in selecting and partnering with third parties in the implementation of grievance mechanisms. Those interviewed were selected to reflect a range of industry sectors and to encompass a broad range of geographies and perspectives, and included representatives from amfori, the Fair Labor Association, Ulula, and the Rainforest Alliance.

What does the resource address?

The document answers five main questions:

  1. What roles can third party partners play in supporting private sector actors to develop and operate grievance mechanisms?
  2. How can private sector actors identify, assess, and verify, the suitability of potential partners?
  3. What competencies and qualities should private sector actors look for when determining whether the potential partner can support them in the delivery of an effective grievance mechanism which fulfils the UNGP effectiveness criteria?
  4. What are the good practices and key policies required to establish and implement effective partnerships with third parties?
  5. What additional resources are available to assist private sector actors in enhancing the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms through partnerships?

The resource includes a selection of tips, toolboxes, and ideas for considerations to make when engaging with specific third parties. The document also includes a selection of case studies from countries such as Vietnam, South Africa, and the United States of America.

Download the document here.