Monday, October 30, 2017

There is more to shared value than you might think

by Ian Thomson
Ian Thomson

Shinglespit Consultants Inc.

This article was originally published online in Resource Global Network (November-December 2015): 

When the subject turns to value and values, it may be necessary to exercise caution and seek more information. This is not something to trifle with. Value and values are subject to variable meaning and understanding. Just what are we getting into by opening a conversation on this topic?

First there is the problem that value and values can be both nouns and verbs. What's more, as nouns, these words have multiple meanings. They can refer to colour intensity, a linguistic unit, the duration of a sound note in music, and a numerical amount in algebra. Then there is the more familiar use of value and values as referring to something important, useful or held in high regard. However, there are at least three application of this meaning: value and values as the importance or usefulness of something; as an expression of material or monetary worth; and, not to be forgotten, as the principles or standards of behaviour to live by. Then there is the matter of perception and interpretation. What is valuable to one person may have no value to another. It can get complicated and become the source of tension and even conflict when individuals or groups have different opinions on value or values.

Social psychologist John Haidt in his fascinating book "The Righteous Mind" describes how shared values define three distinct groups within the United States, which happen to also describe the three dominant political movements in the country; liberal (Democrat), conservative (Republican) and libertarian (Tea Party). Haidt provides an intriguing analysis of the moral foundations to these groups, which also explains why they behave as tribal units fiercely proclaiming the superiority of their values and feeling deeply resentful when another group attempts to impose their values through laws and regulations. The polarization of politics and the political process in the United States becomes inevitable as the various tribes vie for dominance and the opportunity to apply their vision of what is right and just.

Fairness is a value that appears to be present in all cultures and societies. Children learn about fairness at an early age through playing games. They do not like to be cheated or have free riders that do not contribute. Haidt and his research partners have been able to show that, while everyone dislikes cheaters and free riders, perceptions of fairness differ systematically among the political tribes of the United States. According to Haidt:

  • Liberals have a concern for the disadvantaged with compassion and political and economic equality key elements of fairness. For liberals the most important value is care of the victims of oppression.
  • Conservatives do not emphasise fairness and further qualify it in terms of proportionality: 'you get back what you put in' and 'three strikes and you are out', which has a flavour of retribution that makes liberals uncomfortable.  For conservatives the most important value is to preserve the institutions and traditions that sustain a moral community.
  • Libertarians emphasise being self-sufficient and not a burden to others. Fairness is simply proportional with a particular distaste for free riders, who should be heavily sanctioned. For libertarians, the most important value is individual liberty.

From this analysis it is clear that individuals and groups can and do share values that, de facto, allow them to be part of the group. People involved in business share common values that are inherent to the business of doing business. Since economic activity is an essential aspect of modern society, administrators and politicians share many of the same values. As a consequence they see economic wellbeing measured by income and employment as the ultimate indicator of success. They are convinced that these values are of paramount importance and arrive at the moral imperative that they should be promoted ahead of any others. Which takes us to the issue of Shared Value as a business proposition.

As articulated on the Shared Value web site and in the publication 'Extracting with Purpose', there is great confidence that Shared Value can provide positive outcomes for both mining companies and communities. Shared Value is described as a management strategy focussed on companies creating measurable business value by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business. Shared Value focusses on the creation of meaningful economic and social value – new benefits that exceed the costs for the business and society. However this confidence appears flawed and based on the assumption that the values of business are congruent with those of communities. Two statements put this in doubt. First, the Shared Value proponents assert that 'shared value is not about including stakeholders' values in corporate decisions'. Second, they also claim that a by-product of successful program implementation is a positive social license to operate.

The unilateral promotion of values creates unintended risks. As shown by the example from the United States, the unquestioned imposition of one groups' values on another will create tensions and can lead to conflict.  Communities are not businesses, they have different values.  While employment and incomes are important, they do not define the moral matrix of all communities. Many, notably indigenous communities and those in the developing world, prioritize social well-being, self-determination, and the centrality of cultural values and social institutions. Further, there is ample evidence that the strongest determinant for the social licence to operate is the quality of the relationship between the company and the community. It is emphatically not what is done by the company; it is how it is done. Communities value the quality of contacts with the company, being included in planning and decisions, and being able to define their own futures. The highest quality of social licence comes when companies and communities collaborate. A company that makes decisions in isolation and then imposes them on a community is asking for trouble.

Shared Value has potential provided it is tempered by rational application through recognition and reasonable alignment between the values of both company and community. This implies trade-offs, which in turn indicates the need for dialog between the parties to find the points of convergence that will deliver genuine 'shared value' and a social license to operate. Only by engaging with the community will companies find out which values are genuinely 'shared' and be able to identify the place and scale of action that will provide real success.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

What is the Social License to Operate?

Origin and concepts

by Ana Lúcia Frezzatti Santiago
Ana Lúcia Frezzatti Santiago

Research Scientist, lawyer, business administrator, PhD FEI University Brazil and Alicante University, Spain; CEO at ESA Consulting - Equilíbrio Socioambiental; IAPG member 

The Social License to Operate (SLO) is based on the assumption that the expectations of the communities affected by projects/activities of mining companies usually exceed the legal matters. 

The SLO refers to the non-explicit part of the agreement made by industry with the society or the social group, and allows an extraction or processing operation to begin and continue their operations (Gunningham et al., 2004; Franks and Cohen, 2012). 

The SLO concept arises from the framework of engineering within extraction industry, when light is shed on the need to respond to the social challenges, in addition to the customary technological and management challenges. According to Franks and Cohen (2012) there is a trend in engineering, sustainability and safety departments to deal with the technological issues in a neutral way, separating the technological research projects from their social influences.

The SLO may contribute to dealing with this gap, since it proposes a systemic view, integrating the social challenges to the already customary technological, production and management challenges. “A SLO issuance may be considered as the legitimisation of the company by its stakeholders. The complex and dynamic nature of the social processes leads to uncertain conditions that demand the adoption of a new rationale and new governance arrangements in the business environment” (Funtowics and Ravetz, 2000; Berger and Luckmann, 2011). 

The SLO is a continuous negotiation process, a complement to the regulatory licenses, and not a product that may be granted by civil authorities, political structures or legal system (Franks and Cohen, 2012). Thomson and Boutilier (2011) argue that the term SLO was initially used in 1997 during a conference about mining and communities in Quito, Ecuador, supported by the World Bank.

For Prno and Slocombe (2012) however, the concept came to be in the studies on mining made in northern Canada, based on sustainability and governance theories. Since 2007, it has been used by members of the International Mining Board – ICMM (Owen and Kemp, 2013). Nelsen and Scoble (2006) identified key factors for successfully obtaining a SLO, including maintenance of a positive corporate reputation, understanding of the local culture, language and history; the needs for educating the local community members about the project and ensuring an open communication channel between all stakeholders. Also Prno (2014), based on several case studies, identified four drivers for a SLO process:

1) a SLO is built from relationships; 
2) sustainability is a dominant concern for communities; 
3) the generation of local benefits and assuring participation plays a crucial role in the SLO; 
4) adaptability is necessary to address the complexity.

Since this is a subject under construction, the literature presents a diversity of definitions and approaches for the SLO, however, there is a general consensus that companies should be granted an ‘authorisation’, a legitimacy not based only on a legal compliance, but on how well a company can be accepted by local communities, the government, NGOs. However, most of the research projects are centred within the mining sector. This can be explained due to the high potential of social- environmental and economic impact related to mining operations, such as qualitative changes caused in the local social landscape, demographic changes, environmental changes and structural transformation of the local social environment (Petrova and Marinova, 2013).

But after all, how to manage the process and get effective ways to implement a SLO strategy?
First of all it is important to take into account that it is easier to identify when a SLO is lost than when it is achieved. A second step is to understand that this is a continuous process of negotiation, passing through the company's knowledge of its potential socio-environmental impacts (positive and negative). In order to obtain and maintain the SLO, it is fundamental that the strategy is related to three company working environments:

1) the internal: policies, strategies and management practices adopted, such as the management of social and environmental impacts;
2) the external: to understand the processes of changes caused directly and indirectly by the operations and how the community perceives these changes, to invest in collaborative governance, social learning and the strengthening of the local institutions so that they have the capacity / knowledge to grant a SLO;
3) the environment of interrelationships: relationship, participation and dialogue to build relationships based on trust, that is, to open spaces for dialogue about the potential impacts and benefits generated by the enterprise, involving the community, company, organizations and government. In many situations spaces are open to discuss local development, forums, development agencies, but little is said about the operation and future of the enterprise and operations.

Anyway, getting a SLO is first of all to ensuring good relations with the community: a good insurance policy is to have the community as a company partner, including in critical moments!


Berger, L.P., Luckmann, T. (2011) A Construção Social da Realidade: Tratado de Sociologia do Conhecimento. Petrópolis. Editora Vozes. Brasil. 2011.

Franks, D.M., Cohen, T. (2012) Social Licence in Design: Constructive technology assessment within a mineral research and development institution. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland. 79 122 Technological Forecasting & Social Change.

Santiago Frezzatti, A.L. (2016). Social license to operate: Company relationship with the local community. Influence criteria for the LSO concession. Doctoral thesis. FEI Brazil University and Alicante University, Spain.

Funtowics, S.O., Ravetz, J.R. (2000). Post Normal Science. Environmental Policy under Conditions of complexity. Barcelona. Icaria. 2000.

Gunningham, N., Kagan, R.A., Thornton, D. (2004). Social licence and environmental protection: why businesses go beyond compliance. Law & Social Inquiry 29, 307–341.

Nelsen, J., Scoble, M. (2006). Social Licence to Operate Mines: Issues of Situational Analysis and Process. Department of Mining Engineering. University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 2006.

Owen, J.R., Kemp, D. (2013). Social licence and mining: A critical perspective. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia. Resources Policy 38. 29–35. 

Petrova, S., Marinova, D. (2013). Social impacts of mining: Changes within the local social landscape. Rural Society: Vol. 22, Resource Extraction in Australia, pp. 153-165. doi: 10.5172/rsj.2013.22.2.153.

Prno, J. (2014). Establishing a social licence to operate amidst complexity: issues and opportunities for mining industry. Thesis Department of Geography and Environmental Studies in partial fulfilment of the requirements for Doctor of Philosophy in Geography. Wilfrid Laurier University. Canada.

Prno, J., Slocombe, D.S. (2012). Exploring the origins of ‘social license to operate’ in the mining sector: Perspectives from governance and sustainability theories. Journal homepage: Resources Policy 37 346–357. 

Thomson, I., Boutilier, R.G. (2011). Social license to operate. In P. Darling (Ed.), SME Mining Engineering Handbook. 

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

International Science Council

Important news from the ICSU newsletter:

World’s leading bodies of social and natural sciences agree to merge in 2018, becoming the "International Science Council" to serve as the global voice for science.

At a historic joint meeting, members of two leading international science councils voted to merge, launching a process that will see the formation of a single global entity called the International Science Council that unites the scientific community, including all social and natural sciences.

Taipei, 26 October 2017 – Members of the world’s leading international science bodies agreed today in a historic vote to merge and create a unified, international organization whose vision will be to advance all sciences as a global public good.

The agreement took place at a landmark joint meeting in Taipei of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC), with members voting overwhelmingly to form a new organization that provides a strong foundation for advancing science across the disciplinary spectrum and in all parts of the world, and promoting its vital role in shaping humanity’s future on planet Earth.

The new International Science Council brings together the current members of ISSC and ICSU, including 40 international scientific unions and associations, and more than 140 national and regional organizations such as academies and research councils. 

The organization will be launched at a founding General Assembly to be held in Paris, France in 2018. Its mission will be to serve as the global voice of science, providing leadership in catalyzing, incubating and coordinating international action on issues of major public concern. To mark the occasion, the new Council will inaugurate a new interdisciplinary international science summit which will be a flagship event.

Alberto Martinelli, President of ISSC, said: “This vote comes at a crucial moment for science. Now more than ever before, a powerful and credible voice is needed to advocate the value and values of all science to society. The challenge of living sustainably and equitably in a rapidly changing world means that the need for scientific understanding has never been greater. The unified science council will champion all the sciences and their role in responding to today’s global challenges.”

Gordon McBean, President of ICSU, said: “ICSU has been a pioneer in the 20th century for interdisciplinary science programmes and policy impact. I am immensely proud that our members have voted to endorse this historic merger which carves out a new space for our proud historic legacy - to be the global voice of all sciences in a digitally connected world.”

The final vote count in favour of the merger for ICSU was 97.6% and 90% for the ISSC. It came at the end of two days of intensive discussions on issues ranging from the new strategy, statutes and governance arrangements and the legal framework. 

Today’s vote paves the way for the start of the legal implementation phase which will include the finalization of a merger treaty which contains the new name, Statutes and Rules of Procedure. Members of both Councils will endorse this treaty in an electronic vote scheduled to take place in the first half of 2018, and a new, merged Secretariat will be put into place at the organization’s headquarters in Paris.

Commenting on the outcome, Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief of Nature said: “I welcome such a merger because it reflects the inevitable and essential greater proximity and even joining up of all branches of research to achieve new intellectual and societal aims. We, in the Nature group of journals, are moving in exactly the same way.”

The decision to create the International Science Council follows a joint meeting between the ISSC and ICSU in October 2016, at which members of both organizations voted overwhelmingly in favour of an in-principle decision to merge the two councils, and formed working groups to draft a strategy and statutes for the new organization. That vote was based on the recommendation of a joint working group on the relationship between the two Councils which worked between December 2015 and June 2016. Their final report recommended a merger, and this was subsequently endorsed by the executives of both organizations.

Further background information on the merger is available on the dedicated Gitbook page and on the ICSU and ISSC websites.

To see photos of the event, please see our Flickr album.

All PowerPoint presentations from the Joint Meeting are available on the ShareFile.


Helga Nowtony, Chair ERA Council Forum Austria: "I warmly welcome a merger of ICSU and ISSC – it is an idea whose time has come. The merger of these two highly experienced international organisations offers enormous complementary potential in addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time. Science as a unique public good can – and must – offer actionable knowledge, advice and guidance“

Craig Calhoun, President Berggruen Institute: “The merger of ICSU and ISSC brings a welcome unity of science and a new level of global cooperation to help face the enormous challenges before humanity – and before the planet.”


The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (122 Members, representing 142 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members).


The International Social Science Council (ISSC), a membership-based non-governmental organization, is the primary global body representing the social sciences, including economic and behavioural sciences. Its mission is to strengthen social science to help solve global priority problems. Through its members and programmes, the ISSC reaches hundreds of thousands of individual social scientists working across a wide range of disciplines and representing all parts of the world.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Earth first - w
e'll mine other planets later

by Ian Thomson
Ian Thomson

Shinglespit Consultants Inc.

This article was originally published online in Resource Global Network (June 2015): 

There is a slogan seen from time to time on T-shirts or the back of pick-up-trucks that reads: 'Earth first – we'll mine the other planets later'.  The words simultaneously reflect the limits of resources here on Earth, expectations that demand will exceed availability, and belief that technology will allow mankind to go into space to source resources in the future. The message can be read as optimistic, realistic or fatalistic, depending on your point of view. For many it remains close to the realm of fantasy, but as the articles in this edition of the magazine show, there are people who believe mining on the moon, planets and asteroids of our Solar System is not only physically possible, but financially feasible and eminently probable in the relatively near future.

For most of us, however, the image of mining on other worlds comes from science fiction, and is strongly influenced by what we have seen on TV and at the movies. At least four great shows come to mind: an episode of Star Trek, and the movies Outland, Moon and Avatar. The Star Trek episode titled 'The Devil in the Dark' is a highlight for any fan of the series. In this, Kirk and the crew face off with a deadly subterranean creature, the Horta, in the Pergium mines on planet Janus VI. As is typical of Star Trek, moral issues, in this case difference and empathy, play out in the encounter. Interestingly, Inco (now Vale), developed an underground survey and positioning system named HORTA for use in the nickel mines of Sudbury, Canada. It is not clear what relationship, if any, there might be between the Horta of Janus VI and the HORTA of Sudbury, Canada, Earth. The movie Outland featuring Sean Connery is essentially a western based in space. The story line concerns events around a titanium mine on Io, a moon of the planet Jupiter, with the same themes of honor, duty, right and revenge that play out in the 1952 classic film, High Noon. More recently, the 2009 movie Moon is a psychological drama telling of the strange events at a Helium 3 mine on our Moon. In it, a series of moral conflicts are introduced around some of the worst things that are perpetrated casually by men on one another. Ultimately, the question is whether or not it is appropriate to sacrifice an individual, a scapegoat, for the sake and comfort of the masses. By far the best known is James Cameron's Avatar, which revolves around the mining of Unobtanium on Pandora, the habitable moon of a giant gas planet in the constellation of Alpha Centuri. In this highly popular film, the indigenous population, a blue skinned people known as the Na'vi, battle with human and humanoids miners for the survival of their world. The film is unabashed in using leitmotifs of race and the environment to advance a powerful critique of militarism, capitalism and imperialism. It is understandable that many mining people remain uncomfortable with the way their industry was portrayed in the film.

If human relationships are necessarily convoluted in science fiction to create drama and tension, they are no less complicated in real life. The mining industry has been grappling with social issues for more than 20 years and continues to look for advice on how to best manage the interaction between its operations and neighboring populations. Over time we have seen the language and practice of the industry change from community relations, to sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. The latest concept to emerge, and be declared the new paradigm, is Shared Value. Shared value first came onto the scene in 2010 with publication in Harvard Business Review of the seminal paper, Creating Shared Value by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. The writers present Shared Value as an advance on Corporate Social Responsibility by bringing the response to social issues closer to the core of business. To Porter and Kramer, the objective is to find ways to create a pool of resources that will benefit all stakeholders, including business and society. In this way, they seek to establish a closer link with shareholders by demonstrating real value. They suggest that Shared Value can be created in three ways: a) reconceiving products and markets and thus better serving disadvantaged communities and developing countries; b) redefining productivity in the supply chain, and; c) enabling local cluster development.
To date, debate around the concept of Shared Value has largely taken place among academics, and almost entirely within the business school fraternity. A serious critique emerged in a 2014 paper by Canadian Andrew Crane and colleagues, entitled Contesting the Value of the Shared Value Concept. In the paper, Crane and his co-authors challenge Shared Value in several ways including how it privileges the role of business, and the need to have a business case to address social challenges, at the expense of collaborative thinking. The latter being necessary to bring together business, government and civil society to address the real problems encountered on the ground.

Social specialists have not yet fully engaged this conversation, and would most likely side with Crane and his colleagues. They would first note that the present conceptualization of Shared Value has come from people steeped in business thinking. As an inevitable result, the value that is being shared is shaped in terms of economic wealth and developmental growth. Further, it rests on the assumption that the other parties involved, the communities at mine projects, share the same values as the company.
Whilst there are communities that share the same vision and values as business, many do not, particularly indigenous communities. It is worth looking at history for clarification. In examining the proposal for a pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley in Canada's far north, the Berger Commission revealed a classic collision of cultures with different visions and values. For the oil and gas companies the focus was on promoting development and material well-being measured by income and employment. For the First Nation native communities it was social well-being, self-determination and the centrality of traditional cultural values and social institutions. Clearly, the reality on the ground is often going to be more complicated than that portrayed in the model presented by Porter and Kramer.

Given the complexity of dealing with social issues here on Earth, it is easy to see why the idea of mining asteroids and planets is so enticing. Not only are these heavenly bodies often enriched in materials we want; there are no people there!  Proponents may be a little optimistic. There may be no people out there, but there will be plenty near the launch and landing sites here on Earth and these neighbors may well start complaining about increased noise and traffic once mining gets underway. 

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Monday, October 23, 2017

The IAPG section of Bangladesh

Welcome to the IAPG section of Bangladesh! 

The section will work under the responsibility of Ershadul Haque, geologist/geophysicist, and Jahangir Alam, geologist, working at the Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB).

Ershadul is Director of Geophysics at GSB from 2015, Jahangir is Assistant Director at GSB from 2012.

Ershadul Haque
Jahangir Alam

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Geoethics Medal

IAPG is joining the Global Ethics Day initiative established by the Carnegie Council, which has been held each year on October 18th since its launch in 2014.

IAPG celebrates the Global Ethics Day 2017, by launching a new important global initiative: the first edition of the Geoethics Medal.

The Geoethics Medal will reward scientists who have distinguished themselves in applying/favouring/assuring ethical approaches in the geoscience research and practice.

More information about the 2018 edition of the Geoethics Medal and instructions for submitting candidatures are available at:

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

International Geoethics Day

(Earth Science Week)

IAPG officially launches the International Geoethics Day on 12 October 2017, during the Earth Science Week 2017.

The aim of the International Geoethics Day is to raise the awareness of the geoscience community and society as a whole about the importance of ethical, social and cultural aspects of geoscience knowledge, research, practice, education and communication.

The International Geoethics Day will be held every year during the Earth Science Week.

IAPG welcomes initiatives aimed at promoting geoethics locally and globally to celebrate this day.

IAPG works for a respectful stewardship of the Earth: our way to take care of future generations.

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