New tool helps shale gas projects gain social acceptance

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Companies from Chevron to Cuadrilla operating throughout North America and Europe have learned that you ignore social perceptions at your peril. Now, a new tool developed by the environmental firm SLR Consulting will help project and programme managers secure and retain social acceptance, or a Social Licence to Operate (SLTO), for shale gas projects.

The tool is called MI-SLTO (pronounced Mistletoe, trademark pending) and traces stakeholder and community engagement, bringing structure to previously unstructured assessment.

Developed with support from Professor Sarah O’Hara at Nottingham University, MI-SLTO builds on legal and regulatory best practice and seeks an ongoing improvement programme on a wide range of specific and critical issues. Projects are measured across five key SLTO ‘themes’:

  • Social and political,
  • Economic,
  • Community impact,
  • Security and safety,
  • Environment and health.

Every theme has 10-20 key issues, each reflecting a specific and critical area of community concern, ranging from the routing of trucks to the abstraction of water and from seismicity to waste disposal. The end result is a consolidated SLTO ‘footprint’ indicating overall project SLTO performance and highlighting areas for improvement.

SLR Project Director for SLTO, Nicki Bourne, expressed a belief that “by adopting this approach, projects will be better placed to gain and retain a SLTO. MI-SLTO also ensures that the difficult questions get resolved, SLTO is integrated into project objectives and accountability for SLTO is established throughout the project lifecycle.”

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