Grievance Resolution Procedure Seeks to Respond to Stakeholder Concerns
Concerned over the condition of community plantations located at Teluk Meranti, Pelalawan in Riau Province, a village group called Forum Masyarakat Penyelamat Semenanjung Kampar (FMPSK) decided to take action. In lodging a complaint with APRIL Group in September 2016, they became the first community organisation to engage with the company’s new Grievance Resolution Procedure, mandated under its Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0. The new procedure built on earlier community protocols and was introduced following a lengthy process of stakeholder engagement and community consultation.
The group’s complaint was an important one, centering on the pace of development of a community rubber plantation that APRIL had committed to support as part its livelihood plantation program. Once FMPSK’s complaint was lodged, it triggered a step-by-step process that would aim to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution for both community and company.
The first step in the procedure was to convene the Grievance Committee comprising APRIL representatives with independent external input provided by an academic from the University of Riau. The Grievance Committee validated the complaint and oversaw the next steps of the procedure managed by the company’s Grievance Processing Unit made up of APRIL employees from Jakarta and Kerinci. The Grievance Committee subsequently approved the resolution and resulting actions agreed between FMPSK and APRIL.
In this case, the resulting action plan included a range of measures to strengthen support for the community rubber plantation. The entire process was documented on APRIL’s Sustainability Dashboard which also includes fact sheets and other resources. APRIL’s Grievance Resolution Mechanism has since received encouraging reactions from local communities in Riau province dealing with other complaints.
By Community and Stakeholder Design
Designing and implementing a new Grievance Resolution Procedure was the product of extensive consultation under the auspices of the APRIL Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC). This took place in Pekanbaru throughout 2016, where community groups were invited to look at past processes and give input on how they could be improved in the new model. This process was followed by wider engagement involving local and national NGOs and other stakeholders to ensure that it achieved broad acceptance.
The procedure that emerged allows local communities, individuals and other stakeholders – including government organisations and NGOs – to raise any issues they may have related to APRIL’s operations or its suppliers. It now stands as one of the checks and balances in place alongside the implementation of APRIL’s SFMP 2.0.
In designing the Grievance Resolution Procedure, it was important that there be a clear understanding among local communities of the process for raising and resolving emerging issues or grievances. A socialization program was devised, kicking-off with an external workshop with NGOs in Pekanbaru in October 2016, where the new agreed protocol was explained, including walking through the steps and the reporting and communications processes.
Also in October, a series of internal socialisation meetings and workshops were held with estate managers, members of the community and government relations teams and suppliers. This was followed by a meeting in February 2017 with estate managers, who then shared their knowledge of the process with village communities.
Spreading the Word
From APRIL’s perspective, awareness of the procedure and a willingness by the community to lodge grievances is key for the mechanism to work.
“We want people in the communities where we operate to feel comfortable that they can lodge any grievance or issue they might have,” said Rudi Fajar, Director RAPP. “We want communities to know and trust that there is an effective system in place if there is a problem, and to be confident that issues they raise will be reviewed and resolved fairly and in a timely way.”
The Grievance Resolution Procedure addresses any type of stakeholder of community issue except for land disputes, for which there is a separate, defined procedure, and where government input or official process is often required.
Grievances raised since the launch of the Grievance Resolution Procedure have been as diverse as speed controls for logging trucks in residential areas, the condition of livelihood plantations, company recruitment policies and road watering routines. Complainants can raise their grievances with Estate personnel or online, and have the option to remain anonymous. While socialisation continues, and recognizing that not all community members will have access to an online system, grievances verbally received are then logged in the system by the receiving team.
An Early Warning System
Following the initial response, APRIL has stepped up efforts to raise awareness of the procedure in communities within the company’s concessions with the Grievance Processing Unit (GPU) now embarking on a second round of socialization, including estate teams meeting with community leaders and villagers. At the estate level, APRIL’s social and government relations’ manager is a key figure in promoting the resolution mechanism.
“This continues to be work in progress and we’re really keen for this process to serve its purpose,” added Rudi Fajar. “We are even seeing the Grievance Processing Unit starting to function as an early warning system to identify problems before they become grievances. That’s important, because this Procedure is one of the essential checks and balances that need to be in place to respond to issues that matter to the communities and other stakeholders,” he said.