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Last week’s post on the social licence to operate led to a flurry of questions on this blog’s sister site on LinkedIn.

Here’s a few more definitions to help untangle the differences between CSR, the social licence and other related concepts.

What’s the difference between corporate social responsibility and philanthropy?

In the late 1980s and 1990s activists and academics developed the concept of CSR to cover the corporations’ responsibilities to society. The “social” refers to that. CSR is a set of responsibilities that stakeholders claim a company has towards society.

Measures were developed to track corporate performance on these responsibilities. They were called CSP, corporate social performance. CSP is how well the company meets those responsibilities.


Leeora BlackSara BiceBy Leeora Black and Sara Bice

The term ‘social licence’ has become an increasingly popular expression to describe the business case for company engagement with stakeholders and issues.

The term was coined in the mining industry about 15 years ago but today is so mainstream we see it routinely used in the news media and politics. For example, the coal seam gas industry and the live cattle export industry have both had their social licences under the spotlight in recent months.

At ACCSR we have been routinely measuring the social licence to operate (SLO) in all our stakeholder research projects for the last two years. The SLO measures we use evolved from our work looking at social capital in stakeholder networks. We’ve done this work together with our senior international associate, Dr Robert Boutilier.


Paul HohnenWe read nowadays of many clashes. Leaving aside the titanic struggles so breathlessly expounded on sports pages, the conflicts I am thinking of are the great global shapers of politics and economics. They might be between technologies (e.g. Apple vs Android), between business models (e.g. Google vs the rest), between economic development models (e.g. free market vs managed capitalism), and even between civilisations (e.g. The West vs Islam).I have to confess that I am relatively relaxed about most of these.

In many cases these are not only inevitable but healthy differences of approach. The differences spur political debate and decisions, drive technological development, and encourage fresh thinking. In turn, these promote the more effective operations of our democratic systems and capital markets. These are clashes which result in the kind of ‘creative destruction’ that Joseph Schumpeter described.

I am, however, less relaxed about one clash that seems to be coming to a head.

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