How to obtain the Social License to Operate in Colombia

The expression “Social License to Operate” was introduced in the late 1990s, specifically in connection with the Mining Sector. It refers to the legitimate permission granted by the communities where mega-projects are executed.

In Colombia, companies with projects that have significant socio-environmental impacts face the great challenge of obtaining and maintaining the Social License to Operate (SLO) and ensuring their viability. This license is not a physical permit but an intangible endorsement granted by the community in which the company operates. It is based on the social acceptance of the company’s activities and projects and is crucial for its long-term success.

Gaining this license is not a simple or singular process. It is a continuous undertaking that requires project proponents to work closely with diverse stakeholders to reach levels of empowerment and involvement that surpass traditional project management. Once obtained, it becomes essential to uphold the license throughout the project’s duration, requiring active management.

Unveiling the Significance of the Social License to Operate (SLO) and Its Impact

The Social License to Operate holds immense significance for multiple reasons. Firstly, it enables companies to operate with enhanced security and operational stability, mitigating the risks and expenses associated with social conflicts resulting from inadequate management in this sphere. When a community actively partakes in the benefits that projects can bring, it becomes a collaborative partner in the company’s endeavors, reducing the likelihood of conflicts or blockades.

Another important factor of having a healthy SLO is the significant improvement of an organization’s reputation. Good management demonstrates that the company is responsible and committed to sustainable development, appealing even to responsible consumers who demand that companies properly manage the environment and the communities in which they are located.

The SLO presents new avenues for business growth. Companies possessing this license gain access to untapped markets and customers who prioritize sustainability and social responsibility. Consequently, it contributes to the sustainable development of communities. Companies that obtain the SLO typically invest in social and environmental initiatives that bring benefits to the communities in which they operate. Such investments foster positive relationships, promote local development, and create a mutually beneficial environment for both the company and the community.

Brief description of the step-by-step to obtain the Social License to Operate

Conduct a context analysis:

  • Understand the social, economic, political and environmental environment in which the company operates.
  • Identify the key stakeholders with whom you need to interact to obtain the SLO, such as the community, local authorities, non-governmental organizations and other interest groups.
  • Assess the expectations and concerns of these key stakeholders.
  1. Establish an SLO policy:
  • Define the company’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainable development.
  • Establish clear principles for SLO management.
  • Assign responsibilities within the company for the implementation of the SLO policy.
  1. Build relationships with the community:
  • Establish effective communication channels with the community, such as public meetings, newsletters and social networks.
  • Promote dialogue and community participation in decision-making.
  • Demonstrate transparency and accountability in all activities.
  1. Implement social responsibility programs:
  • Develop and implement programs that benefit the community, such as educational, health, employment, and economic development projects.
  • Involve the community in the definition and execution of these programs.
  • Monitor and evaluate the impact of these programs in the community.

Possible problems to be observed

Insufficient comprehension within the community regarding a company’s operations can give rise to mistrust, fueled by awareness of detrimental incidents. Moreover, the failure to promote dialogue with the community has the potential to incite conflicts in the future.

From a business perspective, it is vital to take into account the ability to implement social responsibility initiatives aimed at mitigating adverse effects. Furthermore, closely monitoring any changes in legislation or regulations that impact or contribute to the management of the Social License to Operate is crucial.

How can Socionaut assist companies in Colombia in obtaining the SLO?

Socionaut is a company specialized in SLO management for projects in complex contexts. Its consultants have been exposed to mining, oil, infrastructure, and energy megaprojects, to which it has contributed throughout the different project cycles. Its team of experts can help you to:

  • Conduct a context analysis
  • Establish an SLO policy
  • Build sustainable community relationships
  • Implement social responsibility programs

In addition to:

  • Identify key stakeholders with whom you need to interact to obtain the SLO.
  • Develop effective communication plans to inform the community about your activities
  • Implementing social responsibility programs that benefit the community
  • Monitor and evaluate the impact of your activities on the community.

Socionaut offers experience and knowledge to assist you in designing and socially managing projects. These projects are linked to achieving Sustainable Livelihood Outcomes (SLO) and fostering lasting relationships with stakeholders, especially communities in your areas of influence. Visit their website for more information on how they can help you achieve your business objectives sustainably.