Trust, mistrust and distrust as blind spots of Social Licence to Operate : illustration via three forerunner countries in nuclear waste management
Lehtonen, M., Kajo, M., Kari, M., Jartti, T., & Litmanen, T. (2021). Trust, mistrust and distrust as blind spots of Social Licence to Operate : illustration via three forerunner countries in nuclear waste management. Journal of Risk Research, Early online. https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2021.1957987
Published inJournal of Risk Research
© 2021 the Authors
The notion of social licence to operate (SLO) has become a widely applied concept for companies in mining and resource extraction industries to manage their social and community relations, in the face of local criticism and opposition. SLO literature and practice have highlighted earning the trust of the local community as a key requirement for an SLO. This article addresses three weaknesses in how the current SLO literature addresses trust. The arguments are illustrated via examples from nuclear waste management in Finland, France and Sweden – three forerunners in implementing high-level nuclear waste repository projects. Nuclear waste management constitutes a relevant case for analysis, as an industry that faces significant risk-related challenges of local acceptance, ethics, economics, and democratic debate. Focussing on the oft-used SLO framework of Boutilier and Thomson, with its emphasis on interactional and institutionalised trust between the company and the local community, we address three gaps in the SLO literature: 1) insufficient conceptualisation of trust, in particular the dynamics between different dimensions of trust, mistrust and distrust; 2) lack of attention to the potential virtues of mistrust and distrust; and 3) the downsides of taking the institutionalisation of trust as the ultimate criterion of a strong SLO, especially in contexts entailing significant asymmetries of power. The article concludes by suggesting ways of alleviating the identified weaknesses, via greater recognition of the multidimensionality of trust, mistrust and distrust, the virtues of mistrustful civic vigilance, and greater attention to trust dimensions that lie beyond the community-company relations. ...
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Related funder(s)Academy of Finland
Funding program(s)Strategic research programmes, AoF
Additional information about fundingThis work was supported by the European Commission Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships (IF), grant number 794697-TENUMECA, by the Finnish Research Programme on Nuclear Waste Management (KYT2022) (Dnro KYT 14/2020), and by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland project ‘Collaborative remedies for fragmented societies – facilitating the collaborative turn in environmental decision‐making’ (CORE), Research projects no. 313015 and 313013”. ...
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