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Introducing social license to operate

You have got your permits, your foreshore licences and your planning permission but do you have your Social Licence to Operate? Many developers will stumble on that question and so a good place to start is to explain what we mean by social licence to operate.

               Social Licence to Operate refers to the extent of acceptance or approval that a project, company or industry has from local people, communities and other stakeholders. There is no formal piece of paper you will receive when you gain Social Licence to Operate but the absence of it will be all too real and tangible when you experience project delays, increased costs and damage to reputation.

               The concept first originated in oil and mining where impacts on local communities by companies were significant. Increasingly it is used across many industries and can be applied not just to companies but also to governments, NGOs, universities, etc. Social Licence to Operate provides a very useful lens through which risks and opportunities arising from a project can be identified, assessed and managed.

               Social Licence to Operate for a project can be withheld or withdrawn if the project fails to communicate, has unmitigated impacts, breaches trust or fails to deliver benefits. A project can be deemed acceptable when it is seen as legitimate in its communication and in dealing with impacts. Or it can be deemed as approved when it is not only seen as acceptable but it is also seen as beneficial to the community.

That is enough definitions, more to come on this topic in future posts.