ASIS International covers new ground for security managers with article on social license to operate

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SecMgmt Feb 2014“Required: License to Operate”, a lead story by Megan Gates in the February 2015 print edition of Security Management, ASIS International’s flagship publication, covers new ground not typically addressed in traditional security roles and responsibilities. ASIS International – the largest international organization for security professionals – is well suited to report on the evolving nature of corporate security best practices and has taken on new ground by highlighting security’s role in fostering a firm’s social license to operate.

Experienced international firms long ago developed operating policies to ensure compliance with the provisions of local and national law. But, when faced with local community opposition to companies’ operations, companies began to realize that a legal license to operate in and of itself does not equate to a social license to operate. Accordingly, many firms in the international development and extractive sectors now take steps to foster local community support for their international business operations. The community engagement program of Rio Tinto, a global mining and metals company shows one example of this approach.

What is most significant about this article, however, is the highlighting of the changing approach and role of security management in contributing to the creation of a company’s social license to operate by fostering local community support, particularly in complex environments.

Traditional security management roles for conflict-affected environments or areas with diminished governance and rule of law are well established (e.g. security subcontractor management, personnel and asset protection, risk advisory, local area knowledge, local liaison with public security forces), but in the effort to foster a social license to operate security professionals are now using new technical approaches and methodologies.

These new methodologies include:

Taking a very focused view to understanding the details about, and needs of, the local population – This includes their history, demographics, grievances, fears, differences among them and the sources of these divisions and conflicts, and community leadership, both formal and informal. Care is taken to include all sectors of the community in this analysis, particularly groups that are marginalized or historically underrepresented in local power structures. Communities can best articulate their own needs and concerns, and conveyed respect and simply listening are key success factors here.

Assess and understand how the company’s operations can impact local populations – The risk potential for human rights and security are particularly heighted in conflict-affected regions or areas of high social tension. In addition to conducting Social Impact Analysis (SIAs), Environmental Impact Analysis (EIAs) and local risk and vulnerability assessments related to the company’s local operations, firms are assessing human rights risk associated with company activities. This further facilitates a company’s social license to operate and allows a firm to publically “know and show” in a transparent fashion that it respects human rights and that it has taken steps to identify and mitigate human rights risk to impacted populations. The inclusion of professional security management in this process ensures that the scope of the Human Rights Risk and Impact Assessment addresses all relevant security activities associated with the project and provides security technical expertise to the human rights assessment team.

Foster trust by establishing a mechanism for dialogue and engagement with community representatives and stakeholders – Communities respond much better to companies when they know that they have standing access with designated company representatives. Companies that provide this level of accessibility to local communities create the conditions for an effective “access to remedy” mechanism in the event of perceived or actual grievances brought about by company operations or subcontractors. The establishment of a local community-company engagement council with regularly scheduled meetings helps to facilitate this. The adage that progress “moves at the speed of trust” specifically applies, and minimizing the frequent change out of a company’s local representatives entrusted with this role is key. Community council participation must include representation from all elements of the local population and this must be insisted on. Security managers will also want to take into account the level of trust that the local community has with public security forces. Depending on the local situation, this trust may be bolstered if the community elects to include public security on the engagement council. Likewise, human rights and community advocacy groups may be included on the council as appropriate and if desired by community representatives.

Ensuring that all subcontracted security activities align and comply with your firm’s policies, protocols, and procedures – Locally subcontracted security support (indeed, all subcontracted services) must reinforce, not derail, a company’s effort to obtain a social license to operate with local communities and stakeholders. Security managers should ensure that compliance with codified private security company operations standards such as the International Code of Conduct for Security Service Providers and ANSI/ASIS PSC.1 is reflected in the terms and conditions with the subcontracted security providers. Subcontracted security services provide first line interface with local communities so ensuring their positive contribution to the company’s overall community engagement effort is essential.

These additional approaches for security managers support effective interaction with communities and extend beyond traditional community relations and corporate social responsibility efforts. By viewing local communities as a resource; by listening to their concerns and aspirations; by fostering an ongoing dialogue with community representatives; and by developing an understanding of community grievances – both real and potential – a company not only gains insight to preclude and mitigate security concerns, security managers themselves contribute to their firm’s ability to obtain a social license to operate by fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and open engagement with the community.

It is often said that optimal security comes from the local population itself and that no amount of gates and guard services can deliver this alone. By the same token, new techniques for security management in higher risk environments can enhance security and reduce project risk by helping their organizations generate an enduring social license to operate with local communities. “Required: License to Operate”, in this month’s ASIS International’s Security Management magazine shows us that by taking the view – and following up with actions – that local communities are a resource to understand and value, security managers can better engage with the local population to help achieve their company’s mission in a challenging environment.