How to gain your social licence to operate

There are countless examples globally of projects that have been delayed or stopped altogether as a result of community and stakeholder opposition.

The more expansive the social, economic and environmental impacts of the project, the more difficult it is to achieve a social licence to operate.

Social licence is a term used to define the practice of gaining support for a project from community members who will be impacted by the proposed activities – for example, a new road, hospital, school, busway, etc.

A social licence to operate (SLTO) can only truly be granted where acceptance of the project is shared across the entire network of stakeholders affected by its operations.

This requirement for a universal consensus across stakeholder groups introduces considerable complexity into the process of gaining a SLTO.

A key issue for many organisations is how to achieve this public support.

Group Executive Director, Helen Hutchings, explains the four key elements to gaining your social licence to operate in the following video.

Four key elements to gaining a social licence

1. Economic legitimacy

The benefits a project brings to a region or community such as jobs or acting as a catalyst for other beneficial infrastructure projects.

2. Socio-political legitimacy

The impact a project will have on a community’s way of life, its needs and values. For example, how they live, work and play.

3. Institutional trust 

The relationship between the project proponent and the community. The success of previous infrastructure projects can influence the social licence for future projects depending on the community’s perception of the reputation of that organisation.

4. Interactional trust

The quality of the engagement between the project proponent and the community. This is about whether the organisation listens to the community, whether it keeps its promises and whether the feedback channels are suitable and appropriate.

These four factors determine the level of social licence for a project – whether the community endorses, approves or tolerates the project or whether it withdraws from it altogether.

It is no longer acceptable for communities to bear the brunt of major infrastructure developments without experiencing any of the benefits.

We need to consider how to mitigate impacts and improve benefits at a local level if we are to gain a social licence.

Connect with us

Phillips Group are experts in undertaking quantifiable social licence research that will help you understand how to gain community acceptance, while understanding the barriers and opportunities for delivering a great major project that delivers a benefit to society. Connect with Helen Hutchings today.