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.


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