Frameworks for achieving and maintaining social licence

A salmon farm in Marlborough Sounds

Public trust is an important aspect of any commercial activity. We are investigating how different parties understand this concept of ‘social licence’, and explore how it can be achieved and maintained between communities.  

Project leader: Jim Sinner, Cawthron Institute

What's social licence and how do you get it?

We are investigating how ‘social licence’ is understood in New Zealand, and how similar/different it is to how the term is used in other countries.

Social licence refers to public acceptance of commercial activity. It is not a formal legal permit or regulatory requirement, but a metaphorical indication of community trust.

Without social licence, a business can incur delays and costs, and find business development is blocked.

We have interviewed marine-based businesses, Māori representatives and stakeholders in Banks Peninsula, Marlborough Sounds and Auckland to investigate how different parties understand social licence and how it can be achieved and maintained.

Results so far indicate that the nature of social licence depends on a business’s size and ownership, and that Māori generally prefer to use concepts based on Māori values and tikanga. Social licence also changes as businesses expand their markets and when communities get newcomers who are unaware of relationships between a local business and long-time residents. Larger companies that operate offshore tend to seek social licence by engaging with interest groups and organisations rather than individuals or local communities.

We are also studying how the phrase ‘social licence’ is being used in public documents and public speech and to what end.

Our next step is to complete a case study, where we will survey community perceptions of a company (not yet identified) to assess what factors contribute to its social licence.

Paper reference

Baines J, Edwards P, 2018 The role of relationships in achieving and maintaining a social licence in the New Zealand aquaculture sector.  Aquaculture 485:140-146

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