FAQ on Social Licence & Performance: An Interview with Dr Cathryn MacCallum

To those who work within the raw materials space, understanding social issues can be difficult, especially when navigating complex social systems. Trying to understand a host of unfamiliar terms can make this even more complicated.

But, fear not!

Here we bring a list of frequently asked questions to Dr Cathryn MacCallum, an expert in all things Social Licence, Social Performance, and broader social context.

Questions covered include:

What is Social Licence to Operate (SLO)?

Social Licence to Operate is a reference to the informal acceptance of a project within a community – it is not an official document or piece of paper. An SLO is informed by trust, respect, and fulfilment of promises and commitments. However, it is not only influenced by the actions of a company – actions of individuals, or even wider social context can inform social licence, and it may be difficult to obtain where the actions of a prior project or company have damaged trust in the area.

What is Social Performance?

Social performance can be considered as the sum of all of the interactions of a company or project and its stakeholders. Whilst achieving an SLO (to some) has become a ‘box ticking’ exercise, social performance is more indicative of the continuing actions of a company. Unfortunately, like SLO, it often does not take into consideration the wider context; a company have have great credibility regarding its social performance, yet lack SLO.

Does it look different in different parts of the world?

Social licence, social performance, and social context naturally looks very different across the globe. International guidance informs some of these differences, with, for instance, the OECD informing the requirements in certain countries. Non-OECD countries can adhere to their own planning and social laws, though this is further complicated by geographical differences in requirements as different jurisdictions have differing levels of autonomy too.

What is Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)?

Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, is a consideration that is now afforded to Indigenous People (and, depending on the definition, rural marginalised communities) as an acknowledgement of the persecution faced by these groups and a means to ensure that their beliefs and opinions are considered when project decisions are being made.

When should all of this be considered?

All of the above should be considered from the time of the first boots on the ground, as from this point you can effect change in an area and begin to drive opinions. It is important to manage social risk from the very beginning to try and ensure that positive opportunities arise.

Case study

Akobo Minerals, a Norweigen company focusing on projects along the Akobo River in Ethiopia, are still in the scoping stage, but are working to ensure they have truly considered all social ramifications in the area, with a focus on sustainability. They are using a Shared Value approach to maximise potential for both the company and the local area via implementing a payment for ecosystem services scheme. This enables local communities to generate income through environmental stewardship.

Where can I go to learn more?

Responsible Raw Materials have a host of videos!

Sazani Associates

Social Performance Forum