NZx – August 22nd: A social license to operate

Monday, August 21, 2017
posted by malcolm


Continued growth in New Zealand tourism is raising questions over it’s social license to operate. As Tourism Aotearoa states ” Tourism will only achieve our Tourism 2025 aspirational goal if we maintain and enhance our social licence to operate. We are encouraging tourism operators to recognise the importance of growing their businesses in a way which balances the economic, social and environmental impacts.”

There is no widely accepted definition of a social license to operate (SLO). However a recent paper by the Sustainable Business Council suggests key attributes include:

a.  a measure of confidence and trust society has in business to behave in a legitimate, transparent, accountable and socially acceptable way;
b. it does not derive from a need for legal or regulatory compliance, instead is deemed to be the foundation for enhancing legitimacy and acquiring future     operational certainty, realising opportunities and lowering risk for the business;
c. an unwritten contract between companies and society for companies to acquire acceptance or approval of their business operations;
d. the terms of a SLO are often project or location specific. Although society as a whole ‘issues’ the SLO, it is usually local communities who are the ‘key arbiter’ of     the terms of the SLO due to their proximity to the company’s activities and associated effects;
Tourism New Zealand acknowledges the visitor experience “is affected by the New Zealand community’s own view on tourism – the more the community can understand the benefit of a strong tourism sector, the more likely it is to take a positive view on tourism growth. New Zealand is a long-haul, premium-priced destination with a strong, niche appeal in most overseas markets. We rely on positive brand association and word of mouth to make the most of our unique strengths as a destination. Poor visitor experiences will make it harder to compete with other tourism boards for targeted customers.
As Chrisopher Luxton, CEO Air New Zealand, recently stated ” The biggest issue the industry faces is its social license to operate.Tourism consumes infrastructure such as transport, accommodation, national parks, and puts particular pressure on places where there are low numbers of residents.  If visitors came to the country and thought it was clean but “broken down” and unable to handle its popularity then they might go home wishing they had gone to Dubrovnik in Croatia to see Game of Thrones sites. “That’s not a place we’d want to be. “If we don’t manage the social and the environmental pieces, the social license to operate as an industry is lost because, frankly, socially Kiwis sit there and say, ‘Yeah, I’m getting jacked off with all these tourists coming through the country and it’s irritating’.”
Of course tourism is not the only sector to be involved in this discussion. As Tourism NZ board member Raewyn Idoine says public perceptions of tourism are at a key point and action is needed now so the industry does not go the way of Fonterra. ‘‘Everybody loved farmers until they started polluting streams and rivers and making butter cost too much,’’ she says.  Now Fonterra is funding milk in schools and making expensive PR campaigns with Richie McCaw to improve their image.’’
The issues are clear and the current election campaign lightly touches on some of these issues.  At the time of writing no one party has really addressed the potential answers.
We will discuss some options to manage tourism’s social license to operate in next month’s post.

Ka kite ano


Just what is tourism’s social license to operate in NZ?






Leave a Reply