The Business-Society Interface

This afternoon I had an opportunity to give a talk — “The Business-Society Interface: Meeting the Challenges of Sustainability, Social License to Operate, and Innovation” — to a group of oil and gas executives visiting the University of Alberta from India. The talk covered topics such as sustainability, ESG ratings, and fossil fuel divestment, while also drawing on ideas which originated in two of my published articles: Metatheoretical Perspectives on Sustainability Journeys and Social License to Operate.

Social License to Operate: Legitimacy by Another Name

My article — Social License to Operate: Legitimacy by Another Name? — was published in Canadian Public Administration today. Co-authored with Lianne M. Lefsrud (University of Alberta) and Stewart Fast (University of Ottawa), the article draws in part on research I originally prepared for a report by the Canadian Network for Energy Policy Research and Analysis entitled: “Energy Projects, Social License, Public Acceptance and Regulatory Systems in Canada: A White Paper.”

Hydraulic Fracturing, Newspaper Coverage, and Social License to Operate

We have been hard at work transforming research originally prepared for our report for Canadian Water Network into a series of interdisciplinary peer-reviewed publications. The first of what we hope will be a trilogy of articles was published today in the open access journal Sustainability. The article — “Comparative Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Practices in Unconventional Shale Development: Newspaper Coverage of Stakeholder Concerns and Social License to Operate” — was co-authored by an interdisciplinary team, including Joel Gehman (professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Strategic Management & Organization), Dara Y. Thompson (former M.Sc. student at the University of Alberta, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology), Daniel S. Alessi (professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences), Diana M. Allen (professor at Simon Fraser University, Department of Earth Sciences), Greg G. Goss (professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences).

The starting point for the overall project was the conceptualization of the hydraulic fracturing wastewater context as comprised of three potentially interrelated spheres of action (Figure 1). By delineating between operator practices, regulatory requirements, and stakeholder concerns, our goal was to better understand the extent to which these different spheres affected one another, if at all. In essence, we conceptualized the hydraulic fracturing wastewater context as a dynamic process in which any one sphere has the potential to influence the other two. Relative to the overall conceptual framework, this article focuses on one of these spheres specifically: stakeholder concerns.

Figure 1. Conceptualization of the hydraulic fracturing wastewater context.

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Social License and Public Acceptance in Canada

Today, the Canadian Network for Energy Policy Research and Analysis published its report: “Energy Projects, Social Licence, Public Acceptance and Regulatory Systems in Canada: A White Paper.” This white paper reports on the results of a year-long interdisciplinary collaboration aimed at identifying and summarizing extant research regarding social license and related concepts, with a particular emphasis on understanding its implications for public acceptance of energy projects in Canada, and their related regulatory processes.

The report is available through SSRN and ResearchGate.

The Fossil Free Divestment Movement

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Today, our article on the fossil fuel divestment movement was published in The Globe and Mail. Founded in 1844, The Globe and Mail is nationally distributed throughout Canada and its most widely read daily newspaper. The article is available below and online: What the Divestment Movement Could Mean for Alberta and Canada. Continue reading