Issue 02/2016 Europe

The unwritten contract: the social licence to operate

To mark the upcoming European Communication Summit (celebrating its 10th anniversary on 7 and 8 July), this issue of Communication Director has a special focus on the theme of this year’s Summit: the purpose and societal context of business, and in particular the social licence to operate. Examples of lost social licences abound, from Shell in the Niger Delta, BP in the Gulf of Mexico, dam building in Myanmar to the GMO debate in Europe. In this issue, we look at how digital giants like Google and Facebook struggle with legitimacy: their size and ubiquity, not to mention our fears about data security, obliges them to constantly apply for the licence to operate. Winning the social licence is harder to define: in this issue, Simone Niven shares some case studies from Rio Tinto’s work with local communities directly affected by its mining activities, including Aboriginal people in Western Australia, while Chris Ettery relates how risk mitigation was one of several approaches taken by Lafarge’s stakeholder engagement. But social licence doesn’t just belong to companies. It also applies to professions, among them communications and public relations. In an age of spin, greenwashing, and budget restraints, how do communicators stake their claim to validity, and ensure that their work is fuelled by purpose? That’s another question posed in this issue of Communication Director.

PR Essentials

Key aspects of communication and PR

Agenda setter

Communication ideas in the eyes of experts

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, communicating the message of business as usual brings back tourists. But what are the factors that influence tourists’ perceptions and the recovery of visitor numbers?


The full spectrum of the communicator's portfolio

Helping enterprises earn trust and create value for stakeholders.

What does the way you arrange your fridge magnets say about your brand allegiances? And how does the way you arrange your shoe collection reveal your self-esteem level? Over the past decade Martin Lindstrom has visited more than 2,200 homes in some 77 countries, on the hunt for small signs that show how we relate to brands and to each other, as outlined in his new book, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends.

To mark the Latin-American Excellence Awards – hosted by Communication Director – we asked four jury members to share their insights into the corporate communications landscape of this diverse region.

In an era of no management, promoting the employee as reputation manager gains even more importance, as this case study from one of Europe’s leading telecommunication firms proves.

Companies that are recognised with ‘most admired’ reputation status by their industry peers have a higher proportion of female leaders. New research reveals how gender parity drives corporate reputation.

How global executives deal with today’s reputational risks and opportunities.

Four reasons why communication directors shouldn’t lose sleep over fears of a recession this year.

Organising cooperation across competing claims.

The change from the Age of Information to the Age of Relationships means that communicators have to engage online, culturally and socially.

How communication contributes to corporate success.


Key communicators under the spotlight

The International Trade Union Confederation is determined that no worker is left behind in the transition to a new economy. We spoke to its general secretary Sharan Burrow about human rights, fair supply chains and the fight for a better business world.

Issue focus

Looking at the important questions of communication

From diamond mines in Canada to copper-gold mines in Mongolia, Rio Tinto makes local community engagement a top priority.

What does the social licence to operate mean to you?

Origins and evolution of the social licence to corporate success.

Despite – or because – of their ubiquity, even digital market giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon run the risk of losing their social licence.

How can communicators win their own social licence to operate? With purpose-driven communications that work towards a sustainable world.

In order to achieve the social licence to operate, engaging local communities and identifying risks are must-dos.

Private passions

What makes corporate communicators tick?

Concentration, teamwork, creativity: some of the lessons learned step by step by Iren Marta