A Social Licence to Operate within the Iron ORE Industries of South Africa and Sweden: A Clash of Corporate and Community Cultures

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Freek CRONJE , Sociology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Pertunia THULO , Sociology, Research Committee, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Carina SNYMAN , Sociology, Research Committee, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Suzanne REYNEKE , Sociology, Research Committee, Potchefstroom, South Africa
When analysing the effectiveness of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, other developmental projects and Stakeholder Engagement (SE) in local communities adjacent to the operations of large multi-national corporations, the clashing of ‘corporate culture’ and ‘local culture’ becomes increasingly evident.  In this regard, the contentious issue of a Social Licence to Operate (SLO) strongly comes to the fore.  A Social Licence to Operate (SLO) goes further than formal documentation and legislative requirements (e.g. a mining or a water licence or regulated labour practices), and focuses more on the real processes and practicalities regarding the acceptanceof a specific company by the relevant community or communities.

This paper reports on the issue of a SLO within a comprehensive comparative study between the iron ore industries of SA and Sweden.  Two main conceptual pointers guided the research: firstly, the processes followed from the side of the company in order to ‘receive’ a SLO, and – in the second instance - the capacity of and empowerment within the community to grant such a SLO.  In terms of the communities, different approaches and models were scrutinised, e.g. top-down/bottom-up approaches, participation and communication, self reliance and resilience within communities.

Key findings of the research (from perspectives of both the company and the communities) will be presented in terms of similarities and differences between the industries of South Africa and Sweden.  Recommendations are also being made in order to make the granting of a SLO a less cumbersome process and to ‘merge’ the two different cultures; in this regard, the role of different stakeholders (companies, communities, government and NGOs) have been highlighted by the research.  Methodologically, a mainly qualitative approach (personal interviews with key informants of the companies and the communities, focus groups with community members and workers, as well as objective personal observations).