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2 Sep 2014

The Social License - A new book by John Morrison

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Businesses and other organizations are increasingly aware that they need more than just a legal licence for their activities. The concept of the “social licence” is transforming power relationships and explains how organizations can acquire or lose the legitimacy in the eyes of society that they need to be able to operate effectively.

A social license cannot be directly managed, but is the result of interactions between a number of factors – factors that John Morrison shows business can manage, but which mainstream Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) often struggles to frame correctly.

With examples ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to the Niger Delta, Morrison shows how the social license is dynamic, and why managers must start by focusing on the rights of those directly impacted by their activities. He provides clear guidance on understanding, measuring and integrating legitimacy into a company’s strategy.

Find out more at www.johnmorrisonbooks.com 

Where to order the book.

Public panel discussion

BBC Foreign Correspondent Humphrey Hawksley moderates a panel discussion at Amnesty International UK on 29 September, from 6.30pm to discuss “The Social Licence” The panel will include:

  • Peter Frankental (Economic Relations Programme Director, Amnesty International UK)
  • Ramanie Kunanayagam (Group Head of Social Performance, BG Group plc)
  • John Morrison (Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Business and author of “The Social License”)

Issued covered will include BP Gulf of Mexico, Shell Nigeria, fracking in the UK as well as the recent Scottish referendum. The meeting is public with no entrance fee, but spaces are limited and can be confirmed by emailing [email protected]


“Provocative and challenging The Social License makes a compelling case for why companies must look to increase their positive social impact as an integral part of their core business strategies.”

 - Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever plc

 “John Morrison has led significant initiatives on business and human rights over recent years.  Now his book takes some of that collective experience and orders it conceptually in a way that is accessible and makes an important point about the social licence of corporations to operate.”

 - Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change 

“In this provocative book, John Morrison takes us beyond CSR into the realm of ‘the social license’ and how it is earned, and then all the way to the social contract on which any sustainable societal order ultimately must rest. The intellectual journey is well worth the while.”

 - John G. Ruggie, Professor of Human Rights and International Affairs, Harvard University; former United Nations Special Representative for Business and Human Rights

“The Social License is fundamentally about accountability to people and not just powerful interests. John Morrison’s book reminds all organizations – governments, business and civil society – to focus on the legitimacy of their own actions.”

 - Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International

“John Morrison has written a thought provoking, path-finding book that should be essential reading for any corporate executive seeking to achieve a growing, sustainable business.  It sets out a textured, multi-layered, challenging framework that is foundational to maintaining a social license in a social media world of increasing and rising expectations.”

 - Ed Potter, Director, Global Workplace Rights, The Coca-Cola Company

 “My three words to describe John Morrison’s book: Timely ­– because what used to be acceptable behaviour by business a few decades ago is no longer the case today and because social license is much more than CSR; Targeted – because it reaches out not only to business but also governments and civil society; Trustworthy – because with his vast experience and knowledge John Morrison, convinces us both theoretically and practically. A book to be read, discussed, and used!”

 - Margot Wallstrom, former Vice President of the European Commission; former UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict