Investigating social licence for change – levers behind renewable energy and the circular economy

If the world is to transition to a low-carbon economy, many factors must be considered to bring about both industry-driven and socially adopted, widespread changes in behaviour and attitudes.

Dr Tracey Dodd in the Adelaide Business School leads the University’s niche expertise in researching and advising industry and government on ESG and stewardship. This considers the impact of policy and government support, industry opportunities through a social licence to operate, and the ultimate goal of a ‘circular economy’ where renewables, recycling and reusing are automatically part of the process of adopting new technologies or solutions.

Social equity and social impact

This is part of investigating social equity and other environmental and community implications of a lower-carbon future, as well as social licence to operate. The term ‘social licence’ is widely used in industry to refer to a mandate – or community acceptance – to operate renewable energy zones and technologies, and to build community support for the transition to a low-carbon economy. Another example is the necessity of transitioning a coal-focused workforce into the renewable energy sector or considering end-of-life implications of an asset, to make sure that, in the long term, it is reusable and recyclable.

Tracey, an industry and government consultant as well as a leader in this field of research, is an expert on social policy matters that encourage community acceptance. Her widely recognised expertise in emerging and existing social issues in the not-for-profit sector – such as social and economic wellbeing – can also be harnessed for the benefit of the widescale transformation needed for a lower-carbon economy.

An example of Dr Dodd’s success in the not-for-profit sector is her pivotal role in the team responsible for Australia’s first social-impact model of homelessness that helped establish a $9m fund for sustainable change. She enjoys analysing social problems in new ways, connecting people, research and data.

Energy focus – security of renewables and ‘social licence’ to operate

Dr Dodd is also interested in policies and strategies to integrate energy companies with policy makers to overcome misconceptions about the security of renewable energies, or other environmental and social concerns that the sector has faced, such as opposition to wind farms.

She sees opportunities to lead stakeholders to think innovatively about these opportunities, that don’t only consider renewable energy in a single context but analyse the whole environmental impact. Dr Dodd is widely recognised in Australia, along with colleague Associate Professor Tim Nelson, as applying a broader, holistic view to effectively plan the transition to and manage risks of a renewable energy future.

Dr Dodd is a board member and chair of the Governance Committee for Green Industries SA. This is where policy and government support play a crucial role because they deliver a clear signal to the market, reducing investment uncertainty. South Australia has been very successful here, and far exceeds other states in terms of commitment to renewables, as well as recognition and support for change in the economic sector toward sustainability. After her presentation to the 2019 Future Electricity Markets Summit, convened by the International Energy Agency and Australian Energy Security Board, Dr Dodd was appointed as Senior Advisor to the Energy Sector Reform Division, Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

She serves as a Non-Executive Director with the Australian Maths Trust and is also interested in exploring whether hydrogen is more efficient in a circular economy, holistically thinking through the topic of hydrogen as a lower-carbon fuel, from a social, environmental and longevity perspective. Dr Dodd applies a local lens to these uniting international problems, drawing on her 20 years in governmental and industry policy advisory roles and her academic passion for investigating the social and environmental aspects of the need for energy transition. She has collaborated with industry on significant research papers and is open to partnering with corporations as a consultant or non-executive director.

To get involved or start a conversation, contact Dr Tracey Dodd at [email protected].