Social licence, corporate social responsibility and coal seam gas: framing the new political dynamics of contestation
This paper explores the contestation dynamics between the unconventional gas mining sector and its challengers through the prism of the social licence to operate. Social licence is a dominant narrative in the mining sector today and as a signifier of the sector's CSR credentials, the term is an influential one. Its capacity to confer project legitimacy, and hence avoid the risks of community opposition, helps explain why most companies seek to gain one. Today both gas proponents and opponents talk the language of social licence: the former to defend their projects, the latter to challenge them. Yet, beyond rhetoric, the precise meaning of social licence remains elusive. This paper uses a case study of community opposition to primarily coal seam gas projects in an eastern Australian region to explore how the absence of a precise meaning for social licence has created a strategic opportunity space for the industry's opponents to invest social licence with a potent democracy frame. This democracy framing has proved particularly effective as a contestation tool and helps explain the outcomes in this case.
Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement