Lloyd Lipsett, Daniel Berezowsky, David Kovick, ICMM, Shift, December 2019

For any project with potentially significant impacts – even those managed to the highest standards – community grievances are inevitable.

Having effective operational-level grievance mechanisms in place to systematically handle and resolve the grievances that arise helps to diffuse potential problems and provides channels for resolving issues that might otherwise escalate into protests, conflicts or legal disputes. They also provide an important tool to help companies assess the state of community relations and indicate where problems may arise. Investors understand this and are placing increasing emphasis on the need for robust grievance mechanism processes as part of their environmental, social and governance assessment of companies.

In recent years, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) effectiveness criteria have become the key international benchmark for implementing operational-level grievance mechanisms in a way that supports companies’ broader responsibility to respect human rights including cooperating in remediation where a company has caused or contributed to harm. These criteria state that to be effective, a grievance mechanism should be legitimate, accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent, rights-compatible, a source of continuous learning and based on engagement and dialogue.

This guidance presents an updated version of ICMM’s 2009 Human Rights in the Mining and Metals Industry – Handling and Resolving Local Level Concerns and Grievances guide.

Like the earlier version, guidance is provided on the ways in which companies can develop robust, credible and trusted mechanisms that give local communities a way to raise grievances. It also provides frameworks for dealing with grievances fairly in the eyes of both the community and the company. The updated guide integrates the eight UNGPs effectiveness criteria and leading good practice to set out how mining and metals companies can handle and resolve local community grievances effectively and in line with the UNGPs.

As well as exploring good practice in relation to the UNGPs effectiveness criteria, this guidance also discusses the internal aspects of grievance management, based on lessons learned from ICMM members and other organisations. These internal aspects relate to a company’s organisational structure and culture and are essential factors in developing and implementing an effective grievance mechanism that benefits both companies and communities.

The starting point for these internal factors – and for this guidance – is the understanding that grievance management is necessary and beneficial in order to support a proactive rather than reactive or defensive approach to grievances. But there are also other practical aspects, such as resource mobilisation, cross-team collaboration and senior management buy-in that companies need to consider.

Finally, the guidance includes a list of additional resources about operational-level grievance mechanisms, a checklist for reviewing existing mechanisms against the UNGPs effectiveness criteria, and some suggested considerations for adapting grievance mechanisms for different phases of the mining lifecycle.