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The emergence of social licence necessitates reforms in environmental regulation


van Putten, IE and Cvitanovic, C and Fulton, E and Lacey, J and Kelly, R, The emergence of social licence necessitates reforms in environmental regulation, Ecology and Society, 23, (3) Article 24. ISSN 1708-3087 (2018) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 by the author(s). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.5751/ES-10397-230324


The term "social licence to operate" (SLO), popularized in corporate usage over the last 20 years, is frequently used to refer to the level of social approval that exists in relation to the development of natural resources for private or public purposes. However, the theoretical and practical utility of the concept remains contested and it is often used opportunistically to advance individual agendas. Moreover, it remains difficult to assess how an adequate level of SLO can be transparently assessed, or how dialogue can be appropriately achieved. In this paper we argue that the increasing use of the SLO concept is an indication that trust in, and the legitimacy of, formal regulatory processes for natural resource management has eroded and needs to be reimagined. In response, we outline five principles that provide pathways to increase the legitimacy of, and trust in, regulatory approval processes: (i) clear regulatory objectives; (ii) transparent regulatory approval processes; (iii) clear pathways for appeals and reviews of regulatory decisions (iv) early and inclusive collaborative consultation process; and (v) independence of decision-making authorities. By rethinking the basic principles of regulatory and licencing processes in natural resource management, our five principles aim to reduce the need for SLO. This could minimize erratic decision making and inequitable approval processes that are driven by a perceived need for SLO, often only for the corporate sector, which risks the voices of other stakeholders being unevenly represented. We draw upon natural resource management experiences from Tasmania, Australia as illustrative examples to stimulate a discussion on the usefulness of SLO and the need for improved approaches to natural resource management.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:social licence, environmental management, governance, legitimacy, resource conflict, trust
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Natural resource management
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - wild caught
Objective Field:Wild caught fin fish (excl. tuna)
UTAS Author:van Putten, IE (Dr Ingrid Van Putten)
UTAS Author:Cvitanovic, C (Dr Christopher Cvitanovic)
UTAS Author:Fulton, E (Dr Elizabeth Fulton)
UTAS Author:Kelly, R (Dr Rachel Kelly)
ID Code:131656
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:32
Deposited By:Directorate
Deposited On:2019-03-28
Last Modified:2019-05-10
Downloads:31 View Download Statistics

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