Social licence to operate is developed and kept through managing both operational impacts and the relationship between local community and company. However, CSIRO research has demonstrated that in determining how accepting community members are of a mining operation, relational factors, such as procedural fairness and trust, are much more important than operational impacts, such as impacts on employment and the environment (Moffat and Zhang, 2015). Companies seek to develop relational factors through their engagement with local community; such engagement has many aspects, including, initially identifying stakeholders and positioning the company as part of the local community (Lacey et al, in prep; Thomson and Boutlier, 2011). These relational factors involve the social identities of people living in the community. Social identities are a part of people that shape their beliefs, based on their connections with various groups in their lives (Hogg et al, 2004).
An engagement process, intentionally or not, inevitably interacts with the social identities of stakeholders (Crane and Ruebottom, 2011). For example, traditionally, at the very beginning of engagement processes, community members are assigned to categories using conventional stakeholder mapping and categorisation methods, often based on assumptions about stakeholders’ interests, which equates to assumptions about stakeholders’ social identities (Colvin, Witt and Lacey, 2016; International Council on Mining and Metals, 2012). Yet, there has been limited empirical inquiry into whether such categories reflect the social identities of stakeholders and if there is a bearing on relational factors, including, the perceived fairness of consultations and trust in mining companies (Crane and Ruebottom, 2011). Also at this time, companies commonly seek to create a presence in communities, for example, joining Chambers of Commerce and participating alongside community members. Again, there has been limited empirical inquiry into whether community members and companies identifying with the same overarching group and thus sharing aspects of social identity, influences relational factors (Crane and Ruebottom, 2011). In this study, we examined the effects of changing aspects of social identity by changing how stakeholders were identified and companies were positioned, on how stakeholders’ perceived a new mining operation, specifically how they perceived the procedural fairness of the proposed consultation process and trusted the company, two factors that underlie a company’s social licence to operate.
Carr-Cornish, S and Moffat, K, 2016. Out of the box – the power of social identities in engagement processes, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference, pp 180–182 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).