Trans-Canada puts social license before economics

20 November 2013

With apologies to Parker

With apologies to Parker

The concept of companies seeking social approval (= Social License) for their activities, particularly those that impact on the natural environment, is something that should be an ethical pre-requisite of good business governance – this as opposed to the more common practice of wilfully ignoring the fundamental need to avoid, rather than try to mitigate, impacts.

“Social license” generally refers to a local community’s acceptance or approval of a company’s project or ongoing presence in an area. It is increasingly recognized by various stakeholders and communities as a prerequisite to development. The development of social license occurs outside of formal permitting or regulatory processes, and requires sustained investment by proponents to acquire and maintain social capital within the context of trust-based relationships. Often intangible and informal, social license can nevertheless be realized through a robust suite of actions centered on timely and effective communication, meaningful dialogue, and ethical and responsible behaviour. 

Social License is not something governments can issue – it can only be granted by the public – this implying an involved and informed public sector that has the strategic implications of socio-economic development to heart.  It is a concept that is substantially intangible – hence it is likely to flourish on a local or regional basis, as opposed to becoming a national characteristic.  It implies that a nation should be more concerned about sustaining its natural capital than having to pay for the use of first class roads.

The Trans-Canada pipeline company is seeking just such approval for its Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project by re-routing its pipeline around two grizzly bear sanctuaries, rather than straight through them.  Bears are under enough threat from idiots with hunting rifles so they need all the protection they can get.


Flooding of the Somerset West Hospital not at all surprising

18 November 2013

Somerset West’s Vergelegen Hospital took hydrotherapy to a new high this week when the complex flooded and resulted in it having to be closed.  Given that the hospital was built in the flow path of a former arm of the Lourens River – and the warnings  that predated the location of the hospital in this spot – this was not an unexpected event.  It just needed a big enough flood event – which Nature provided on Friday 15 November 2013 – when six inches of rain fell within 8 hours. Read more »

Can the DA do any better with water?

13 November 2013

Are there now too many holes to plug?

Are there now too many holes to plug? (Photo: Bill Harding)

Recent days have seen what appears to be an increasing level of disarray within the DA, as it prepares to contest the 2014 elections which, to all intents and purposes, have the makings of a watershed event in SA politics.

Recently we learnt that the  Department of Water Affairs, managing a commodity on which our socio-economic future depends, was rated as one of the three worst performing government departments.  This, combined with skills losses, bureaucratic inertia, infrastructure decay and other crises, presents as a major limitation to strategic progress.  The few dedicated, skilled and energetic staffers still manning the trenches cannot carry the whole organisation. Read more »

P from Poo. Sewage treatment plant turns human excrement into high-quality fertiliser

6 November 2013


Recovering P from Poo!  Good news for environmental protection!

Recovering P from Poo! Good news for environmental protection! (Photo: Mark Berry)

Sky News this morning carried a very welcome insert – news of the first wastewater treatment plant in Europe to recover phosphorus from sewage – a long overdue event but a major step forward nonetheless! Read more »

World’s largest dam removal project nears completion

3 November 2013

(Image credit: Elwha River Restoration Project/NPS)

(Image credit: Elwha River Restoration Project/NPS)/Environment 360

With the dismantling of two dams on Washington state’s Elwha River, the world’s largest dam removal project is almost complete. Now, in one of the most extensive U.S. ecological restorations ever attempted, efforts are underway to revive one of the Pacific Northwest’s great salmon rivers (article here).

Industry has still not grasped water quality-related risks

3 November 2013

Screen shot 2011-08-07 at 13.31.17530 investors, whose combined investments total $57 trillion, approached Deloitte to produce a “water risk” report based on data provided by 180 companies listed on the FTSE Global 500 Equity Index. The Deloitte report , which slams these large firms for misguided water risk management, is summarised by Environmental Leader (31 Oct 2013):

Read more »