Social License to Operate — Seafish

Social License to Operate

A social license to operate indicates the level of approval from the community that an industry has to operate. Seafish facilitated a workshop to explain the concept, how it works and the reasons for attaining and building high quality stakeholder relationships in this way.

The term 'social license' is becoming a popular expression to describe the level of acceptance or approval by local communities and stakeholders of organisations and their operations. It is based on the idea that whilst institutions and companies need regulatory permission, there is also now increasingly pressure for 'social permission' to conduct their business.

For wild capture and farmed fisheries any gap between science and community perceptions means a real risk of limited  community approval or acceptance of fisheries management. This is really Corporate Social Responsibility strategy in action. A 'strong scientific basis' is no longer enough, equally a policy position or a personal belief that is 'based on the best available science' is now far more likely to be contested and is less influential. Communities generally are looking for an explicit alignment of business operations with community values and expectations - they want to know businesses and an industry can be trusted.

A high level of trust in fishing operations is fundamentally important and underpins a social license. This is demonstrated through alignment between public expectations about fisheries sustainability and the actual (or perceived) sustainability performance of fishing businesses.

The social responsibility of an organisation is to ensure the effects of its decisions and activities on society and the environment are such that they (through transparent and ethical behaviour):

  • Contribute to sustainable development, including the health and welfare of society.
  • Take into account the expectations of stakeholders.
  • Are in compliance with law and consistent with international norms of behaviour.
  • Ethics of responsibility are integrated throughout the organisation and practiced in its relationships.


For further information contact Karen Green