In the shadows of social licence to operate: Untold investment grievances in Latin America

Maria Ehrnström-Fuentes, Markus Kröger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically examines the usability of the concept of ‘social licence to operate’ (SLO) in the Latin American context as an indicator of the social acceptability granted by local stakeholders to multinational forestry companies. We identify four potential problems (risks of co-optation, structural power imbalances, conflicting worldviews, and the silencing effects of global certification schemes) that emerge when the current practice and literature on SLO is implemented in the context of forestry operations in Global South's rural areas, commonly marked by dynamic and contentious corporate-community relations. Based on empirical material from local communities affected by industrial tree plantations (ITPs) in a setting claimed to have an absence of conflicts (Uruguay) and another where visible conflicts have been present (Chile), we then ask: What does SLO mean to those it is supposed to represent the most, the local communities affected by industrial forestry? The findings illustrate that caution is necessary prior to claiming that a company, investment, or industry has achieved an all-encompassing SLO at the local level. Instead, to understand the dynamic and contentious corporate-community relations we argue for a more nuanced approach to how locals engage with different economic alternatives based on their own place-based capacity to sustain and reproduce life in community.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Cleaner Production
Issue numberJanuary
Pages (from-to)346–358
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 16.09.2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Corporate-community relations
  • Conflicting worldviews
  • Extractive industries
  • Forestry
  • Latin America
  • Legitimacy
  • Marginalised voices


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