Complaints are part of the landscape for any business. Taking complaints seriously and establishing a good complaint handling procedure is one of the most effective ways of dealing with local concerns. Implementing a simple, well-designed procedure demonstrates a willingness to take community members and their issues seriously. A good process can play a major part in building better relationships with local communities, will help with the early identification and resolution of concerns and will reduce the potential for unanswered questions to escalate into something more serious.
- Identify regulatory and other requirements, understand how the local community works and what impacts the project has;
- Define boundaries and eligibility criteria – what the company will and will not do;
- Assign responsibilities for each step in the process;
- Think about modelling the oversight committee on the structure used for incident / accident investigations – the two processes are more similar than you might realise;
- Ensure you have a system in place to receive, record, and track every case and to create an institutional memory and that there is a budget so costs associated with each complaint can be estimated, allocated and paid;
- Test the system before going live and public to be sure all the pieces work; confirm that response times and targets are realistic and to establish what is and isn’t possible during the roll-out stage.
- Ensure all staff are trained. Everyone needs to have a basic knowledge of what is in the procedure and how it works. Ideally they would also have a general awareness of complaint resolution concepts;
- Develop a narrative and speaking points and use toolbox and other standing meetings to explain to employees, contractors and the security team;
- When the procedure has been tested and it is ready to go, using a structured campaign integrated with other consultation activities to formally announce the procedure will ensure widespread sharing of information and build an understanding of how the process works and what to expect.
- Number of Cases: New; Resolved; Closed; Abandoned;
- Number of Cases not acknowledged within the specified timeframe;
- Resolution time; Maximum; Mininimum; Target;
- Number of complaints grouped by Aspect; Location; Department / Contractor;
- Repeat grievances associated with the same Department / Contractor;
- Underlying causes.
Guide to Community Complaints
WHY COMMUNITY COMPLAINTS MATTER:
Complaints are part of the landscape for any business, and especially so for anyone operating close to communities. Although a complaint, by its very nature, requires dealing with dissatisfied and often unhappy people, taking complaints seriously and establishing a good complaints handling procedure is one of the most effective ways you can deal with local concerns. A well implemented procedure demonstrates a willingness to take community members and their issues seriously and has a major part to play in building better relationships with your local communities. It will also enable you to identify and resolve issues and concerns early which in turn will reduce the potential for complaints to escalate into litigation, protests, security incidents, or regulatory challenges. It will also bring your behaviour in to line with current international standards and broader societal expectations. While a good complaint handing process is an essential first step, your ultimate aim needs be making changes to the way you operate so that you avoid actions that lead to complaints.
WHAT TO DO:
HOW TO DO IT:
Develop a fit-for-purpose complaints procedure
Establish a small number of indicators to confirm you are on track and improving over time:
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO:
Complaint prevention: Local employment and local procurement are usually major sources of complaints. Good policies, effectively executed will go a long way towards preventing complaints.
Follow these six steps when resolving complaints:
Build on what you have: Managing complaints and managing incidents have many similarities so if you have a good incident procedure you could think about whether you can modify it to handle grievances rather than start from scratch.
Involve the Complainant: Ensuring the complainant understands the process, participates in the investigation process and plays a part in determining the solution will reduce the likelihood an agreement will not be reached.
Recourse: If the company response is unacceptable, the complainant must have the right to use other avenues to receive redress, including legal action. This must be made clear at the time that the complaint is registered and at the various decision points in the process. Good practice is for legal action to be used as a last resort, only to be considered when all other options have been exhausted, however the complainant is always free at any time to take legal action.
Roll Out and Operation: The immediate period following the roll out will be busy, as communities test out the process and old concerns (if any) are addressed. This initial period where the effectiveness of the mechanism is demonstrated is generally followed by a period of calm. At the point where the initial caseload of complaints has been addressed, legacy cases can be included, which will likely see a second, less intense, peak in complaint volume.
- The importance of keeping an open-mind
A few years ago I reviewed a community-company grievance mechanism. The client didn’t have the best of reputations and I had some seriously negative preconceptions when I agreed to take on the work. I have to say, I was wrong. I found the teams on site were doing a much better job than I expected with a significant and multifaceted effort being put into grievance prevention…
- A Community Relationships Primer for Exploration Companies
Why Building Strong Relationships Matters.
Going into a new area to explore and ultimately build and operate a mine you start with high and positive expectations that you can work constructively with the local communities. Then it goes off the rails. Most often, with good intentions and a focus on an immediate issue, individuals in the company or in the community will take actions or make decisions (or fail to take actions or make decisions) that over time, cumulatively and progressively add up to major problems and consequences that are for the most part predictable – difficulties, costly delays and if it really goes badly, loss of the project. The good news is that 10 simple actions you can take will give you far more control than you might think...
- CAO Grievance Mechanism Toolkit
An excellent practical guide for implementing complaint resolution mechanisms. Read the online publication: CAO Toolkit
- Complaint management on a single page
An easy way to see at a glance how to set up a system to address community concerns, complaints and grievances.
- IFC Grievance Mechanisms Good Practice Guide
Having a trustworthy way to address community concerns and complaints is essential if you're serious about building and maintaining a good relationship with your local communities. Whether you are starting our or reviewing your current practices this guidance is as relevant and useful today as it was when it was published in 2009.