Pineapple workers in their daily routines. Men and women work along side. No gender difference. Photo: Andres Mora/Oxfam

Pineapple workers in Costa Rica
Pineapple workers in Costa Rica

Making sure workers are heard: effective grievance mechanisms

Consumer Goods company Reckitt recognised the needed to ensure their workers could access effective grievance mechanisms as part of their obligations under the UN Guiding Principles for Responsible Business. But they needed help working out how to set these up in practice and knowing which mechanism would be the best one for workers and communities.

Solution: developing a practical toolkit

We developed a practical toolkit which shows companies – with a focus on tier one manufacturing suppliers - how to practically design and implement effective site-level grievance mechanisms with their workers. Bringing together existing best practice and working with trade unions and worker organisations, we then piloted the guidance with six suppliers from Peru to the UK to China.

The pilot process enabled us to add richness and really practical details to the toolkit, identify common challenges and pitfalls, and build capacity with Reckitt’s regional teams so they were better equipped to support other suppliers moving forward.

The team at Oxfam really understood what our suppliers needed and had practical ideas to help overcome challenges and shift their thinking. It’s been brilliant to see so many people download the toolkit to use themselves.”

Max Levy, Head of Responsible Supply Chain, Reckitt.

Impact: Building trust and effective dialogue

The companies that took part in the pilot shared that the experience was “eye opening” and “speaking to employees can give you very valuable feedback, if you give them the right forum to share ideas”. The union secretary for one company reflected that “before, there was no visibility about the [grievance mechanism] procedure and no clarity about the role of the union in it. But now everything is clarified on paper”.

Beyond their suppliers who took part, the project helped Reckitt understand some of the issues arising across their supply chain. As their regional teams joined the virtual sessions with the suppliers, they have also developed confidence and a better understanding of the process of engaging workers in developing grievance mechanisms. And beyond Reckitt, as they made the toolkit publicly available, it has been downloaded over 450 times to date.