© 2019 by Penny Clark-Hall of Social Licence Consulting. All rights reserved.

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Aligning values to earn Social Licence



Being a ‘good human’ is the game and Social Licence is the name.


The Social Licence concept aims for universality in building relationships, by using the qualities universal in human societies (Dr Robert Boutillier). Translation? We must value our stakeholders - have empathy and respect for them, even those who challenge and disagree with us, if we are to have a Social Licence.


Social neuroscientist, Matthew Lieberman, argues that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. "The data suggests we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed,” (Liberman, Scientific American).

A powerful way to earn your Social Licence to Operate (SLO) is to align your values with your stakeholders. The ‘value connection’ is where you find common ground, understanding, familiarity, respect and trust.


The economic security achieved in New Zealand by the primary sector has now afforded us the ability to focus on our values rather than financial security. The issue is, values can be extremely divisive and is showing businesses and industry up every week. If you’re out of sync with the general populace’s values and opinion the trust they have in you will start to wane.


We can all be tripped up by the passivity of our extended stakeholders, focusing on the readily available and agreeable ones. The problem is, when an issue arises you don’t have a relationship to build solutions from. If there’s no trust there, your SLO can slip away before you’ve had a chance to engage to remedy the situation because you haven’t earned the right for them to listen to you. Reputations are hard to build and quick to be lost.


The people at the helm of your business or industry need to understand “it takes a village”, and that we are all a mere blimp in the industry, or business, we represent. Our stakeholders’ values can change and evolve over time. If we can’t co-exist and build relationships with those who are impacted and can impact our business (stakeholders), the future is grim.


The challenge is to find empathy with all stakeholders, not just your number one fans. Everyone likes to feel listened to, respected and considered. If stakeholders are not made a genuine part of the process from the beginning, a business can end up wasting a lot of time and money on assumptions. There are many examples of this in agriculture. We’ve got to start letting people in and asking them what they want.


Finding out what matters and affects them, not only shows you care but it gives you an opportunity to fix issues before they become a Social Licence issue. The term Community Capacity Building is about empowering community stakeholders to be a part of the solution, and is something I believe should be used by all businesses to create enduring solutions for their SLO.


Acting on behalf of a community without consultation, shows a complete lack of respect and consideration for those who can make or break your business. The world is moving and changing too fast for us not to have our finger on the pulse and understanding who our stakeholders are, what they valued how we impact them.


A prime example is how New Zealand builds its trade relations with China. Before any trading can begin, their is considerable investment that goes into building relationships. We all must put our stakeholder relationships first, and I mean stakeholder in the broadest sense. Anyone that consumes our products, or is reliant on the resources we use, is a stakeholder in our business. They all deserve our respect and best efforts. Without them we don’t have a business.


To rebuild our SLO, we need to be ‘better humans’. We only have control over our ‘good human’ moments so make them count.


You can see the published version of this article on Farmers Weekly's website

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