Rural communities are incredibly powerful and beautiful things. I’ve seen them in action during natural disasters, family tragedies, raising children, supporting each other’s businesses, families, hopes and dreams. It’s this calibre of people that are now starting to take charge of their own Social Licence to Operate (SLO) – helping and learning from each other, many forming their own catchment groups and managing, measuring and improving their own environmental impact.
The isolation of rural communities makes them incredibly vulnerable to the calibre of its inhabitants. But thankfully, it is also a breeding ground for creating a rich tapestry of people that build communities out of necessity. Our remoteness creates a much stronger reliance on each other where we all strive to bring something valuable to the community, to make it our own – our home. It’s got a name – resilience. The saying, ‘it takes a village’ couldn’t be more true for rural communities. So with such a strong resource of resilient rural communities who are already taking their Social Licence into their own hands in forming catchment groups, what else could be done? The efficiencies of industrial agriculture has its trade-offs when it comes to Social Licence because the connection to the authentic grassroots producer is lost. The benefit to the farmer is also compromised as the temptation of commoditising and following the best price overlooks the gain of value-add while tickets get clipped depleting returns to the farmer.
Anything worth doing to improve one’s Social Licence needs to be authentic and you can’t get more authentic than a rural community. We’re now seeing producers innovating by creating their own market pathways and connections to consumers, where the value connection lies for both parties. This gives the consumer a connection to the origins and story behind their product and a lighter conscience knowing the environmental social governance (ESG) behind it.
Closer to home, the wider communities we live in has its challenges too. I recently heard from YOLO farmer Wayne Langford, at the Grow Boma NZ Agri Summit about how he tackles the challenge. It is brilliant. He put an ad in the local paper asking for help and input from the community about how he could farm more sustainably. The call was answered, and he now has an advisory group made up from passionate community members who are willing to do something constructive. They meet every couple of months on Wayne’s farm and look at ways to improve his footprint and lighten his touch on the land. It is such a beautiful, inclusive, transparent and brave solution.
As we move forward into a fast-changing future, we have one thing we can rely on that gives me hope. A resourceful and resilient rural community.
If you would like to learn more, visit sociallicence.co.nz