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How Companies Can Address Conflict

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LONDON – Giant mining, timber, oil and gas projects can provide lessons on how companies can address conflict and build trust in communities, according to a new book to be released this week.
The book, by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), says the work of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, has increased awareness about the potential of company-community grievance mechanisms to help fill gaps left by weak legal systems.
“Leading oil and gas, mining and forestry companies are starting to establish their own formal mechanisms to address and resolve local citizens’ grievances,” says co-author Dr Emma Wilson.
“Grievance mechanisms provide a channel for communities to identify concerns and for companies to address these concerns before they escalate. As part of an effective overall strategy to engage with communities, these mechanisms can help companies to build trust with stakeholders, reduce operational risks and enhance the way they manage project impacts and community relations.”
The book includes research from Africa, Asia, the Russian Far East and Azerbaijan that provides insights into how different grievance mechanisms are designed and what affected communities think about them.

The report’s case studies include grievance mechanisms used:

“It is important that companies resolve grievances in a systematic way and that they have local staff on the ground who can engage appropriately and sensitively with communities,” says co-author Emma Blackmore.

“Companies can make use of the traditional approaches that local communities already use to make decisions and settle disputes. They can also support activities that build the capacity of government officials and communities to take part in a more informed and meaningful way.
“This book highlights some examples of how this has been done, and some of the challenges of such approaches.”
David Vermijs, an independent advisor on business and human rights and the author of one of the chapters in the book writes: “A grievance mechanism is not just a mechanical process or a tool, but requires a change in corporate culture: a fundamental shift in how the company deals with conflict and stakeholder engagement.”

For an electronic copy of the book, email mike.shanahan@iied.org

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