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The costs and benefits of social license


Local support for a project or investment can be vital. Just as businesses need to get and maintain legal license to operate, so they also need to earn and maintain “social license to operate” or local approval. This can be challenging in emerging markets where it is hard to identify and communicate with legitimate stakeholders and where property rights are unclear.

In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, businesses may find that their social license is put to the test as they struggle to provide the support that local people need or expect. Loss of social license – meaning local opposition to a project – can lead to significant disruptions and large financial losses. Our previous research has demonstrated this and quantified its impact to help businesses make better decisions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a strong business case for investments in services and procedures that earn social license. Examples include establishing dispute resolution mechanisms, implementing participatory monitoring processes and facilitating regular meetings with the community. What we want to know, and where we need your help, is how much these services and procedures cost and how effective they are.

It should take you no more than 5 minutes to complete this survey. Most of the questions are optional and any data you provide will be held in the strictest confidence.  With companies’ consent, we will publicise positive case studies of local engagement processes/procedures, underlining the way in which they have contributed to responsible investment practice and the delivery of public goods. Thank you in advance for your help, we really do appreciate it. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Best wishes,

Joseph Feyertag ( & Ben Bowie (