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Social Licence to Operate: Structural Injustices and the Spectre of Mediocrity

Joseph Naimo (AAPAE, Australia)

Social Licence and Ethical Practice

ISBN: 978-1-83753-075-5, eISBN: 978-1-83753-074-8

Publication date: 7 April 2023


According to The Ethics Centre (2018) ‘[T]he social license to operate (SLO) is made up of three components: legitimacy, credibility, and trust’. These three components serve to frame the relationship that has emerged and continues to evolve, its root arguably dating back to the Enlightenment and Post-industrial ages, between the worlds of capitalist commercial and industrial operations, and the liberal-democratic citizenry/consumers of society. The ‘SLO’, it will be shown, has historical grounding that indicate the SLO is a broader translatable concept not limited to the business realm. The SLO, the evidence will show, is a multifaceted concept not least, a unifying vehicle utilized for the purpose of acceptance, to advance normative concerns, and resistance, against questionable and harmful practices. Evidently, many domains of human services operate sub-optimally with less than favourable outcomes. In effect, this translates to structural injustices as characterized by poor understanding, insufficient standards of practice, ineffective safeguard, and governance institutions, perpetuated by entrenched practices, allowing the rise of mediocre service providers no less enabled by deficient regulation. Accordingly, the ethical focus of this paper is on the healthcare system, the evident and unnecessary deficiencies, and the failings of the central governance institutions involved. The underlying characteristics of what constitutes a SLO arguably, whether in name or not, have been engaged to expose, challenge, and repel, unethical conduct that gave rise to multiple health care-related Royal Commissions across Australia; predominantly, impacting the Disability, Aged Care, and Mental Health (DAM) sectors to name a few of recent times.



Naimo, J. (2023), "Social Licence to Operate: Structural Injustices and the Spectre of Mediocrity", Breakey, H. (Ed.) Social Licence and Ethical Practice (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. 27), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 73-94.



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