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Grievance mechanisms: A core component of human rights due diligence

Grievance mechanisms have emerged as a critical tool in the global push towards responsible business practices, driven by developments in human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation.

The Germany Supply Chain Act (LkSG), which came into effect in January 2023, and the proposed EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), expected to be enacted in 2024, both mandate companies to identify, prevent and remediate negative impacts on human rights and the environment. The importance of access to remedy is highlighted in the texts of both pieces of legislation, bringing to the fore the need for companies to place serious thought and action into integrating effective grievance mechanisms across their value chain.

Grievance mechanisms serve not only as a platform for individuals to raise complaints, but also provide a crucial avenue for companies and suppliers to uncover “blind spots” that audits, self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs) and other risk monitoring tools are not able to reach in real time. Amid increasingly complex and volatile supply chain environments, LRQA’s grievance mechanisms provide businesses with eyes and ears on the ground to be able to resolve grievances before they potentially spiral into systemic issues.

Uncovering blind spots in difficult sectors in India

LRQA has in the last decade launched successful worker-driven grievance mechanisms across the globe – among them, the award-winning Amader Kotha in Bangladesh and Suara Kami helplines in Malaysia and Indonesia. Our India-based helpline, Ungal Kural, launched in December 2022, sees LRQA take the same personalised and on-the-ground approach across both the garment/textile and aquaculture sectors in multiple states across India.

Labour rights issues in India are well known – the state of Tamil Nadu, for instance, is rife with reports of excessive working hours, withholding of wages and lack of access to remedy for workers. As major Western brands and retailers rely on the southeastern state as a strategic supplier of garments and textiles, more robust human rights due diligence is necessary not only to comply with new and emerging legislative requirements, but significantly to ensure ethical and responsible labour practices across the value chain.

Since the launch of Ungal Kural (translated as Your Voice in Tamil), LRQA has been launched in over 31 sites across 3 states in India, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra with over 10,000 workers in the garment/textiles and aquaculture sectors now having access to live operators in their native language. Beyond a toll-free helpline, Ungal Kural is also accessible through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and operates in Tamil, Hindi, Odia, Telugu, and English.

As with all LRQA’s helplines, Ungal Kural was developed in line with the requirements outlined in the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). LRQA now plans to expand the helpline beyond Tamil Nadu, to reach other key sourcing locations across India and to include more high-risk sectors.

What makes LRQA’s helplines effective?

  • Our helplines are simple, accessible, and user-friendly – Our grievance mechanisms are inclusive, using familiar and popular communication platforms that are available to all and eliminating potential barriers that stakeholders face, such as literacy, language and access to technology. This empowers workers to voice their grievances effectively.
  • Our helplines are independent – Outsourcing the grievance management process to a third-party promotes trust and confidence among workers, who can be rest assured that their concerns are being monitored and addressed by an independent and neutral entity.
  • Our helplines provide contextual and specialist support – We work with local NGOs who provide specialised support on local labour and human rights issues, ensuring that the specific needs of affected individuals are handled in a culturally sensitive and responsive manner.
  • Our helplines are run by live operators – As our helplines are run by live operators, workers can speak to individuals who are trained to understand and respond to complex, sensitive and urgent issues. Providing this human touch allows for a nuanced and effective response that wholly tech-driven solutions lack.
  • Our team monitors cases for continued improvement – We regularly review overall trends of key indicators, such as response rates and types of grievances reported, to evaluate the effectiveness of our Helplines. By analysing grievance data collected via our digital case management system, we can provide key insights to companies to develop effective resolution strategies and make systemic improvements across your organisation and supply chain.

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