With more companies trading across multi-jurisdictional markets, a firm can easily find itself entangled in a complex web of accusations.
And with the pandemic weariness of 2020 continuing to drain businesses, the decision on whether to opt for mediation or a drawn out case in court when disputes arise demands ‘being dispute wise’.
However, businesses are trending toward solving conflicts through mediation rather than litigation or other more traditional methods of dispute resolution.
Sample this: in October last year, UK-based group that monitors supply chains compliance on ethical codes of practice, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), called on Kakuzi, and its parent company, Camellia, to engage with Leigh Day, a human rights law firm, on a credible and meaningful way forward to address allegations of worker abuse.
After months of mediation, the ETI has acknowledged the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that Kakuzi has embraced to help settle the issues levelled against the Kenyan avocado exporter.
“We hope that by addressing the legitimate concerns of workers, by building better relationships and stronger working practices, Kakuzi can go from strength to strength based on decent working conditions and a safe work environment. We commend those who have made this agreement possible and urge them to ensure continued progress and transparency for all concerned,” said ETI in a report in part.
Kakuzi managing director, Mr Chris Flowers, said the firm’s board is seeking to establish an independent human rights advisory committee to provide advice on matters relating to the company’s human rights and governance structures.
“The acknowledgement also recognizes the progress made in developing and rolling out an operational level grievance mechanism benchmarked against the UN guiding principles on business and human rights. This will provide the timely and sensitive resolution of any grievances connected to Kakuzi’s operations in a fair, transparent and independent manner,” said Mr Flowers.
The settlement arrived out of mediation, ETI noted, respects the rights for remediation, by providing financial reparation to the victims concerned, and the need for improved operations grievance mechanisms, to address future concerns from workers.
It also sets out improvements at the farm level to help reduce the chance of future harm to workers.
It is only through meaningful engagement of parties to a dispute that solutions can be found and improvements made, that not only benefits the workers concerned, but helps strengthen the business and reduce the likelihood of future abuses.
“We encourage ETI member companies that have a trading history with Kakuzi to maintain a constructive dialogue with the company and to work with others to ensure the independent validation of reported progress. In this way, the remedy can be assured, and trust can be rebuilt,” entity’s progress report said.