Published 5 September 2019
In just a few years, the concept of ‘social licence to operate’ has emerged as the dominant consideration in the review of proposed resource development projects in Canada. ‘No social licence’ has become an effective rallying cry of project opponents in blocking individual developments. Surprisingly, the concept has also been adopted to some extent by industry and governments. Notwithstanding its pervasive role in public discourse on resource development, however, the concept has no agreed meaning and, more seriously, threatens the rule of law by insisting that the outcomes of structured, duly-authorized legal processes have no validity unless they have also acquired social licence. Adherents insist that regulators themselves, in addition to being duly authorized, must acquire social licence to regulate. The article notes that the concept of social licence to operate originated (coincidentally, with a Canadian connection) in very different circumstances from those in which it is now being embraced in Canada.
This paper will be part of the OGEL Special Issue on "Social Licence to Operate (SLO) in the Extractive and Energy Sectors". More information here www.ogel.org/news.asp?key=571