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…
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)
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…..