Do You Have Your Licence?

May 31, 2013

By: Nick Andrews

Do you remember getting your driving licence? The thrill of having passed and the promise of the open road. Wonderful, wasn’t it? Of course, it didn’t mark the point at which you could drive. You developed the ability to drive often long before you were granted a licence. A licence, after all, is not really a badge of ability, it is a permission granted by someone who has faith in that ability. It is important difference and one of which organisations should take note.

Many companies confuse the ability to operate with the licence to operate. The ability to operate is a based on commercial opportunity and regulatory compliance. This gets you in the game but it does not keep you there. As the evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) over the past couple of decades has shown, compliance is rarely enough. It’s a bit like saying, “yay for me, I didn’t rob a bank today.” Nobody is going to value this and it is not going to raise you above all the other people competing in your field.

What the most successful organisations have is genuine, societal licence. They have permission to operate, granted by stakeholders who feel that they have an authentic relationship with that organisation. Licence is awarded because the organisation sets high expectations in areas important to these stakeholders and then meets them. It is interesting that our Authenticity Gap research shows that sector leaders perform relatively strongly across all nine of the drivers of authenticity (see here – need link} and outperform the sector significantly in at least two.

This is no accident. Leading organisations know that building such authentic relationships brings with it a whole slew of benefits, from the ability to attract and retain top talent to providing a ‘shock absorber’ in times of crisis. They’ve been awarded their licence. Have you?

Nick Andrews is FleishmanHillard’s Reputation Practice Leader for EMEA. You can reach him at