The Social Licence to Operate (SLO) is a term used to describe the authority and power that local communities and the broader network of stakeholders have in determining a company’s activities within any given area. The SLO only has legitimacy and value if it is obtained in a manner that ensures consent is free, prior and planned.
The SLO is not a licence in a legal sense but an indication of a tipping point between agreement and disagreement over proposed or actual activities. The depth of both the acceptance and rejection can vary and the licence is under constant review and re-evaluation. In essence it is a snapshot in time of the relationship between a company and the network of stakeholders.
In reality the complexity of any situation means that the SLO is not a binary outcome and the perception of any given stakeholder could vary across the spectrum of co-ownership to resistance.
There are numerous factors that will exert a force on either side of the fulcrum and the strength of these will vary continuously. Early inclusion of the network of stakeholders, transparency, open and continuous communication, sensitivity to local cultural norms, realistic expectation management and fair conflict transformation mechanisms are all key mechanisms by which these forces can be influenced.