Addressing Grievances from Project-Affected Communities

Guidance on Designing Grievance Mechanisms

The concepts of social risk management and social license to operate have become an integral part of doing business in emerging markets. These dimensions of a company’s social and environmental strategy can be achieved with effective stakeholder engagement, based on active participation of and feedback from groups affected by the company’s operations. A mechanism to address affected communities’ concerns and complaints— a grievance mechanism — is an important pillar of the stakeholder engagement process, since it creates opportunities for companies and communities to identify problems and discover solutions together.

Moreover, it is now clear that credible and effective grievance mechanisms are part of a broader framework for businesses to address human rights issues in their operations. As such, companies should integrate specific principles developed by the Special Representative of the UN SecretaryGeneral on Business and Human Rights: legitimacy, accessibility, predictability, equitability, transparency, and compatibility with internationally recognized human rights standards.

Companies across sectors and through all stages of project development can benefit from understanding community concerns and complaints and addressing them. This Good Practice Note provides guidance on basic principles and process steps that organizations should take into account when creating and implementing grievance mechanisms. Together, these principles and steps constitute a baseline set of considerations and good strategies for designing and implementing procedures appropriate to the project scale and impact. This Note is not intended as a detailed guide for large and complex projects. Instead, it focuses on helping companies create a foundation for successful resolution of concerns and complaints. It does so through examples from private sector projects of IFC clients ranging from oil, gas, and mining projects to manufacturing companies.

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