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Open AccessArticle

Conceptualizing Company Response to Community Protest: Principles to Achieve a Social License to Operate

Urban and Regional Studies Institute, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, 9700 Groningen, The Netherlands
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Land 2019, 8(6), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8060101
Received: 13 May 2019 / Revised: 6 June 2019 / Accepted: 19 June 2019 / Published: 20 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Land, Land Use and Social Issues)
To gain a social license to operate and grow, companies should have effective community engagement activities, social impact assessment processes, environmental and social impact management procedures, and human rights-compatible grievance redress mechanisms in place. In this way, environmental impacts and social impacts would likely be identified and addressed before issues escalate and social risk amplifies. Companies also need to treat communities with respect and be mindful of local culture. Where these things are not done, there will be no social license to operate. Protests are mechanisms by which affected communities express their concerns and signal there is no social license. As argued in our previous work on conceptualizing social protests, protests are warning signs, as well as opportunities for companies to improve. Rather than let protest actions escalate, leading to violent confrontation and considerable cost and harm, companies should engage in meaningful dialogue with protesters. Unfortunately, company response is often inadequate or inappropriate. In this paper, we identify around 175 actions companies might take in relation to community protest, and we discuss how these actions variously have the potential to escalate or de-escalate conflict, depending on whether the company engages in appropriate and genuine interaction with protesters or if repressive measures are used. While effective engagement will likely de-escalate conflict, ignoring or repressing protests tends to provoke stronger reactions from groups seeking to have their concerns heard. When companies address community concerns early, their social license to operate is enhanced. We also outline the primary international standards companies are expected to comply with, and we identify the key environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG principles) that should be respected. View Full-Text
Keywords: social licence to operate; social performance; social impact assessment; community engagement; social protest; corporate social responsibility; conflict management; corporate counterinsurgency; environmental and social management; shared value social licence to operate; social performance; social impact assessment; community engagement; social protest; corporate social responsibility; conflict management; corporate counterinsurgency; environmental and social management; shared value
MDPI and ACS Style

Vanclay, F.; Hanna, P. Conceptualizing Company Response to Community Protest: Principles to Achieve a Social License to Operate. Land 2019, 8, 101.

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