Social licence

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to put social licence front of mind in the way infrastructure is planned, procured and operated, according to a new report.

The report, released by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and LEK Consulting, calls for increased focus on social licence – both in the immediate pandemic recovery period and beyond.

Building Trust: Social License for Infrastructure outlines a series of key principles that should underpin how infrastructure organisations develop and manage their social licence.

The report recommends the following principles be adopted:

  • Social licence should be a key consideration for every infrastructure project at every stage
  • It is vital to have an effective governance structure for managing social licence
  • Social licence must be embedded in all key decision-making and processes
  • Active and tailored engagement will support organisations to gain the trust of communities
  • The benefits of a project need to be clearly and frequently communicated to the public
  • Organisations should always be working to improve the experience of infrastructure users
  • Methods for monitoring and evaluating social licence should be implemented
  • Organisations should work directly with consumer advocates and community groups
  • The approach to managing social licence must evolve to keep up with shifting community expectations

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Chief Executive, Adrian Dwyer, said industry can use the challenges of the pandemic to rethink how social licence is integrated into infrastructure delivery.

“As we accelerate infrastructure investment and planning to speed the recovery, there is a major opportunity to innovate in the way we engage with communities and put social licence at the front of our thinking about infrastructure delivery,” Mr Dwyer said.

“While physical distancing measures and barriers to face-to-face consultation with communities create challenges, they also provide an opportunity to transform the way we traditionally build and maintain social licence.”

Mr Dwyer argued that when done well, social licence can build the trust of the community and help to deliver assets and services in a streamlined manner.

“Good business practices allow infrastructure organisations to attract and retain customers and provide a robust foundation to garner support from communities for future projects,” he said.

“When infrastructure developers and operators have the support of the customers they serve, they have more flexibility to innovate and experiment, which creates benefits for government, business, and the community.

“High profile inquiries, like the Banking Royal Commission have driven a greater awareness of the importance of social licence in decision-making and COVID-19 should only bring this awareness into sharper focus,” Mr Dwyer said.

The Building Trust: Social Licence for Infrastructure report can be accessed here.

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