The earning of a Social Licence to Operate (SLO) is really not that complicated. It all boils down to relationships and the trust capital within them. Think of it like a trust wallet. When it’s full, business flourishes and when it’s empty business flounders.
Building your trust capital is done by your business being a ‘good human’. To have trust, your business needs to have a high level of engagement with its stakeholders, transparency and respect. All businesses are accountable to their stakeholders and their bottom line. More and more, the stakeholder net is widening as economies have globalised. This is where the crux of social licence lies. Who are your stakeholders and do they trust you? The economic security achieved, in countries such as New Zealand, has now afforded society the ability to focus on their values rather than financial security. The problem? Industry wasn’t ready to listen to them. After years and years of businesses focusing on returns rather than values, they have now burnt a hole in their trust wallet. Like a reputation, trust is not easy to earn but easy to lose, so there’s some considerable work to do in rebuilding it. 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 your products, or is reliant on the resources you use, is a stakeholder in your business. They all deserve your respect and best efforts. Without them you don’t have a business. The New Zealand primary sector in my view is sitting at the lowest level of ‘Acceptance’ of Boutilier & Thomson’s SLO model, and is on the precipice of its ‘Legitimacy’ being questioned. Many things have caused the sector to get there, but the turning point now is our strong and diversifying economy and food innovation reducing dependence on the sector. This is empowering society to challenge the primary sector to do better. The days of them looking the other way are long gone. To rebuild the sector’s SLO from a question of ‘Legitimacy’ and passive ‘Acceptance’, the industries and businesses within need to be ‘better humans’. Being accountable, understanding the value of our stakeholders and building better relationships with them (rebuilding the trust capital). A powerful way to achieve SLO is align your values. The ‘Value Connection’ is where you find familiarity, respect and confidence, which gives you trust. If you can also start to ‘be brave’ enough to report your business operations transparently – warts and all, you will regain trust. Owning your failures and shortfalls is a far more effective way to rebuild your credibility. Think of it like a game of Snakes and Ladders. The ladders and snakes are the result of choosing to hide or own your failures. You only have control over your ‘good human’ moments so make them count. Keep filling your trust wallet, you never know when you’ll need to use it.