SLO Guides

SLO Framework

Social License to Operate (SLO) has come to be understood to be an unwritten social contract between a company and a community. Being unwritten implies that SLO is built on trust.

To have a SLO means that your company is accepted by local communities and you are allowed to go about your business. As trust ebbs and flows the strength of the SLO between stakeholders and over time will vary, ranging from passive acceptance through to broad-based trust. Your SLO makes it is possible for to maintain access to land, to secure government approvals, to build a reputation as a responsible business and to manage your social risk. Your SLO is a complement to the regulatory licence issued by government and increasingly carries weight equal to or greater than the regulatory licence.

Unlike a formal permit with its documented compliance points and periodic review and renewal process, the unwritten nature of a social license means that it is constantly evolving and requires ongoing, (often on-demand) renewal and maintenance, which in turn requires ongoing attention to your relationship with your local communities.

Earning and maintaining a SLO is as much about looking inside as it is looking outside, with company actions - what you do, or do not do - directly affecting the strength or weakness of your social license. You may be tempted to look outside for the reasons for your problems with your local communities but you would be well-served to look inside - at your own policies and practices - if you are serious about improving the quality of your relationships and the strength of your social license.

SLO Guide to Community Complaints

Complaints are part of the landscape for any business, and especially so for anyone operating close to communities. Although a complaint, by its very nature, requires dealing with dissatisfied and often unhappy people, taking complaints seriously and establishing a good complaints handling procedure is one of the most effective ways you can deal with local concerns. A well implemented procedure demonstrates a willingness to take community members and their issues seriously and has a major part to play in building better relationships with your local communities. It will also enable you to identify and resolve issues and concerns early which in turn will reduce the potential for complaints to escalate into litigation, protests, security incidents, or regulatory challenges. It will also bring your behaviour in to line with current international standards and broader societal expectations. While a good complaint handing process is an essential first step, your ultimate aim needs be making changes to the way you operate so that you avoid actions that lead to complaints.

SLO Guide to Community Engagement

Engage (v): occupy or attract someone’s interest or attention; involve someone in a conversation or discussion; participate or become involved with; establish a meaningful contact or connection with. 
Engaging constructively with local communities is critical to every part of your business which means that it needs to be done well by everyone who works for you or with you. Good community engagement is as important to your bottom line as good design, attitude to health and safety and how you manage costs. How you engage sets the tone for your relationship with local communities and works best when it is a shared responsibility and an explicit part of every person’s job. The way your employees and contractors engage with local communities is important because it is the only opportunity your company has to listen, to learn and to share ideas, concerns and solutions with local people. Most importantly if engagement is done well you will be able to stay on top of issues and respond more effectively to changing circumstances. This is turn will help you use available resources – people, time and money - more efficiently and effectively by doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done in the best way possible.


SLO Guide to Company Conduct

Every employee and contractor is an ambassador of your company and every action – good or bad - is reflected back on you. The reality is that all company activities and all employee and contractor actions will collectively have either a positive or a negative impact on the local community. It almost goes without saying that having a positive impact will be better for your business. This means you need to apply the same focus to your behaviour as you do to every other part of the business. Good behaviour it is as important as a well designed project, commitment to minimising accidents and injuries and actively managing costs. 

SLO Guide to Community Development

The reality is that for most projects the benefits that come from job and business opportunities fall to a relatively small proportion of the population, usually those with better education and better connections. For the majority of community members local development is the one broadly distributed benefit they might see. Community and government pressure to “help” and a natural tendency for feeling that helping those you might think of as being less fortunate is “the right thing to do” often lead to a temptation to do something quickly to relieve pressure and to live up to a self-image. While this is understandable, it is important to try to resist the instant gratification of a quick fix and for you to move away from "giving stuff" and providing hand-outs which create dependency and take on the bigger challenge of building capabilities and developing a sense of ownership and accountability. It is also important for you and your company not to fall into the trap of over-promising and under-delivering and turning what should be a positive into a long term liability.

SLO Guide to Local Purchasing

There are four widely-stated reasons for you to buy goods and services from local businesses. The first is in response to government regulations or investment agreements that require a minimum level of local content. The second is to deliver socio-economic benefits into your local community by creating business opportunities for people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Third is to create a shorter and more diverse supply chain and the last is to build local community support.

In emerging markets, local suppliers are typically micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and they often need help to bring them up to the required business management and operational, safety, environmental and technical standards. This is typically achieved using a combination of training, mentoring, and other support (usually externally sourced) and through internal efforts to identify opportunities.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution so it would be worth your while taking time early-on to clearly articulate the reasons your company is considering investing in this area.

SLO Guide to Local Jobs

Jobs created by your company provide an important opportunity for local people to benefit from economic development in their communities. Local jobs are one of the biggest contributions your company makes to the local economy and can help to strengthen your relationships with local people. A company job builds a sense of pride, achievement, involvement, ownership and empowerment as well as providing access to cash and all the benefits money can buy. However perceptions of unfairness, opaque recruitment practices and disparity of expectations often lead to jobs becoming one of the biggest sources of community complaints about you. This is particularly so when local people see outsiders being hired for jobs they think they can do or feel they are entitled to. Too much attention on you as the provider of jobs and not enough on you as provider of employability opportunities doesn’t help.

SLO Guide to Cultural Heritage

Culture and heritage are fundamental to the identity of many communities. We know from the not so distant history of large-scale industrial development that ineffective management of cultural and heritage concerns can lead to conflict and that damage to heritage sites is likely to cause strong feelings, with social, political and legal opposition an all too common result.

Using good practices early is particularly important and is critical if you need community permission to access land for development. Starting well will have a big influence the quality of your long-term relationships, the effectiveness of your broader community engagement efforts and the sustainability and legacy of operations.

SLO Guide to Community Health

Your company has a responsibility to avoid or minimize the risks and negative impacts to community health that may arise as a result of your activities. Physical structures and activities relating to construction and operations will, more often than not, change community exposures to environment-based health risks such as communicable diseases, equipment accidents, and exposure to hazardous materials or conditions. Adding to this communities often lack an understanding of the controls you plan to use or have in place. This can lead to concerns which if not addressed can damage the relationship you have with local communities and government agencies which can in turn lead to disruption, delays and cost increases.

SLO Guide to Land Access

Competition for land is always an issue for companies and communities. Compensation for damage and the displacement and resettlement of communities is a challenging experience for all concerned often leading to conflict over the right to land and its use. For community people, the very idea of losing their land creates strong emotions. Add in the complex business process of land acquisition and resettlement and the experience can be very traumatic. For your company the difference between doing it well and doing it badly will affect the success or failure of your business plan with inadequate attention to the impacts of land access and acquisition likely to lead to disaffected communities and civil society groups taking action. They might choose to do this by lobbying government and holding up permits and approvals or they may take direct action and stop construction and operations. On the other hand, if the acquisition and resettlement is well managed it can result in positive results for local people, creating benefits such as better quality housing and new livelihood opportunities.

SLO Guide to In-Migration

In-migration (also referred to as Influx) is the movement of people into an area in anticipation of, or in response to, opportunities associated with the development and/or operation of a new project. It is an inevitable consequence of project development and although a case can be made that in-migration may benefit trade, employment, infrastructure, and services in the project area, the experience from the resources sector is that in-migration is more likely to have negative effects on host communities insofar as environmental, social, and health issues are concerned. These will lead to increased project costs and increased operational and reputation risk if not well managed.

Irrespective of whether project development is viewed as a trigger for in-migration or as a catalyst for broader economic development of the region which in turn leads to in-migration, you have the ability to reduce the level of in-migration and to prevent and/or mitigate its impacts. 

In-migration peaks during the construction and early operations phase of projects and potential impacts need to be identified and plans put in place before the first migrants arrive, which means that management of in-migration is best done pro-actively and early while you have the greatest opportunity to influence the result, rather than reactively where resources have to be directed towards mitigating the impacts for the life of the operation.

SLO Guide to Environmental Management

Changes to land-use are unavoidable whatever the nature of the new end-use you are planning. Whether it is a new mine, a solar power project, a wind farm or a commercial plantation more often than not the consequence of change will be less local food production and poorer food security. The consequence of the loss of natural buffer areas such as the wetlands, mangroves, and upland forests that mitigate the effects of weather related hazards - flooding, landslides, and fire - is often a tendency to increase community vulnerability and safety related risks and impacts. Reduction of the quality, quantity, and availability of freshwater and other natural resources is likely to create health-related risks and impacts. When it is not feasible to avoid environmental impacts you will need to build in engineering and management controls to minimise the undesirable consequences for your local communities.