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"Futureye skillfully applies the principles of risk communication, community outrage and stakeholder consultation to the real-world problems of clients in many industries. They integrate risk communications with a range of other disciplines, including sustainability, organisational development and community relations to achieve extraordinary results."
Dr Peter Sandman,
Futureye Associate and international thought leader on risk communications and public outrage
The study of risk communications began more than four decades ago as psychologists and communicators grappled with the disconnect between community reactions to, and the inherent nature of, a given risk.
From most organisations’ perspective, hazard is the true source of risk and it is a company’s responsibility to maintain systems that recognise, minimise and manage risk-causing hazards. From a community’s perspective, the response to a risk does not necessarily correlate to the level of the associated hazard, rather it is formed intuitively. But, unlike what most people think, there is a predictable logic to these ‘outrage’ perceptions.
For instance, the risks that kill people and those that outrage them are often completely different. There are many risks that make people furious but are not innately harmful; and then there are risks that may lead to injury or death but cause barely a ripple of concern. Of course there are also risks where harm and fear correlate.
The risks that lead to community outrage are those that lose your business its social licence to operate whether there is a hazard or not. Allowing outrage to go unchecked will result in increasing community concerns – justified or otherwise. These drive your business risk and can bring increasing regulatory attention.
Using technical solutions alone to address outrage will never succeed as the “outraged” do not recognise or respond to the community’s perspective of risk. In short, they deal with the source of the hazard and often exacerbate the outrage.
Without a clear social licence to operate strategy, even with legal and economic legitimacy; and without an obvious crisis, a concerted challenge from an activist group can threaten your political and regulatory legitimacy. An indicator of this is how people respond to your position in comparison to the activists. If activists win them over then your position needs review.
Understanding the difference between high-outrage and low-outrage risks has been identified by Futureye as the cornerstone of a successful social licence to operate strategy. However, monitoring community attitudes and proactively responding to emerging issues will prevent an outrage outbreak and ensure that you retain your social licence.
A simple equation was developed by Futureye Associate Dr Peter Sandman that reflects the true nature of risk. The risk equation is Risk = Hazard + Outrage
Futureye has extended the risk equation into a range of robust, quantitative methods to recognise, track and mitigate emerging or existing community concerns and safeguard your social licence to operate. Your organisation can also build this capability internally as part of an integrated Social Licence to Operate Strategy.