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Part 3: Where is authenticity born?

By Penny Clark-Hall, Social Licence Consultant

If a social licence is a measure of trust that society has in you to behave in a legitimate, transparent, accountable and socially acceptable way then earning it should be as easy as honouring those four pillars right? Unfortunately, trust isn't easy to earn and is very easy to lose. In an era of ‘fake news’ and urbanisation of our population, it makes it increasingly difficult to create meaningful connections with those we are trying to build trust with. So we have to get better at prioritising stakeholder engagement as the opportunities to naturally connect as we have in the past diminish. Because trust needs to be earned it should be treated as capital. You are earning it from your stakeholder network so they are your market and the more trust you earn with them the more resilient your business will be. It’s your bank of goodwill that you draw on when things go wrong. How much forgiveness or benefit of the doubt you are given when you cock-up is a direct result of how much you have invested in meaningful stakeholder engagement.

There are varying degrees of trust that occur with stakeholders, according to Dr Robert Boutilier’s Social Licence model, which I will break down into ways you can achieve each one.

  1. Acceptance = is where you have passive stakeholder acceptance under the watchful eye of NGOs. This is achieved through value connection that has yet to be proved.

  2. Approval = is where stakeholders now actively support you because you are living your values authentically. It’s about ‘walking the talk’, the action behind the words that prove your integrity. The organic industry is a great case study of aligning and living their stakeholder's values.

  3. Psychological identification = is where stakeholders feel a sense of ownership of your business, empowered by what you do. It is as if you have held up a mirror to your stakeholders and they see themselves in you. The pride and identification create a strong bond and loyalty that gives you full trust. This is achieved by putting your stakeholders at the centre of your identity and making them a part of your story. Full emersion. Air New Zealand who are highest-ranking business in New Zealand on the Colmar Brunton trust index, do this well in making New Zealanders their brand and culture - they are us. because of how well you engage and include them.

To earn trust we need to build stronger connections. My belief is that if they’re to be meaningful and lasting they need to be ‘from the ground up’ because that’s where authenticity is born. Don’t overthink it - we’re all human and we are all trying our best. When we chose our humanity over fear and ego we can change culture, lives, politics and pretty much everything. As Brene Brown says, our natural desire as humans is to connect and that connection is where your Social licence starts.

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