Social Licence Conference 1400x500 V2

Social licence: Learning from other industries?

An invitation-only virtual conference that explored tried and tested strategies for improving public acceptance within the context of equestrianism

An invitation-only virtual conference that explored tried and tested strategies for improving public acceptance within the context of equestrianism

This virtual conference, which explored strategies for the maintenance of social licence to operate within equestrianism, took place on Wednesday 24th January 2024 (12:00 noon – 4:00 pm GMT). This unique event showcased ideas from speakers across the globe – United Kingdom, Europe, United States, Hong Kong, and Australia – all of whom are leaders from within equestrianism or thought leaders from non-equestrian industries who have challenged and changed the status quo, for the benefit of all concerned.


Welcome and opening remarks Roly Owers, Chief Executive, World Horse Welfare

Public acceptance of equestrianism: A view from horse sport Ingmar de Vos, President, FEI

Ingmar de Vos, whose term in office at the FEI has included establishment of the independent Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission, discussed his views on current challenges to the public acceptance of equestrian sport, the FEI’s approach to this issue, and the effects of their strategies to date. 

Public acceptance of equestrianism: A view from horse racing Dr. Chris Riggs, Director, Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Equine Welfare Research Foundation

Chris Riggs has spent the last 20 years working as a veterinary clinician and researcher within the horseracing industry in Hong Kong. He discussed his perspective on the status of racing’s social licence to operate and the effectiveness of strategies aimed at combating current challenges.

Lessons learned from the sustainability battlefield: From reactive, peripheral, and a nuisance to strategic, integrated, and opportunistic Bob Langert, Corporate sustainability consultant; formerly Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability at McDonald’s Corporation

Bob Langert has been instrumental in improving both animal welfare and environmental sustainability within the fast food industry in a way that has had benefits for all – including the industry. Using relevant examples from his experience with McDonald’s and other companies, he outlined potential strategies for equestrianism as the sport navigates its way forward through issues relating to sustainability, stakeholder engagement, and public acceptance.

Values-based communications and actions: Evidence from agriculture Charlie Arnot, Founder and president, Look East; Chief Executive, Center for Food Integrity

Charlie Arnot’s evidence-based approach to values-based actions and communications and his extensive experience in the food and agriculture industry have built his reputation as a trusted counsellor on critical issues within the food system. He outlined the strategies that industries should adopt – and those they should ignore – as they strive to build public trust.

Engagement science: A data-driven approach to social licence Dr. Kieren Moffat, Co-founder and Chief Executive, Voconiq

Kieren Moffat’s innovative approach to the assessment of public attitudes provides an understanding not only of what people think about an industry, but also why they think it. This, in turn, provides the industry with a quantifiable pathway towards the most relevant strategies for improvement. Kieren used his wealth of experience in the field of public engagement science within both animal-use and non-animal-use industries to map out principles that are relevant for the future of equestrianism.

Enabling behaviour change within the equine sector Toby Park, Head of Energy and Sustainability, The Behavioural Insights Team

Toby Park provides advice to government departments in the United Kingdom, intergovernmental organisations (e.g., United Nations, global development banks), and international environmental NGOs to help drive evidence-based social impact. Combining his experience in the psychology of sustainable behaviour with his engaging and interactive presentation style, he emphasised the importance of understanding human behaviour and provided strategies for the implementation of behaviour change science within equestrianism.

Discussion panel

Chaired by Lucy Higginson, writer and editor

Ingmar de Vos, Dr. Chris Riggs, Bob Langert, Charlie Arnot, Dr. Kieren Moffat and Toby Park

Summing up Roly Owers, Chief Executive, World Horse Welfare

For more information contact

Meet our Speakers

De-Vos-Ingmar, President of the Fédération Equestre Internationale
Ingmar de Vos

Ingmar de Vos is President of the FEI. A Belgian native, he is fluent in Dutch, English and French and holds Masters degrees in political science, international relations and European law.

Having started his career as an advisor to the Belgian Senate, Ingmar has since amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience across the equestrian sector, having held senior roles in the administration, governance and management of equestrian sport at national, regional and international level for over 30 years, including Secretary General at the Belgian Equestrian Federation, at the European Equestrian Federation which he co-founded, and at the FEI prior to being elected the 13th FEI President on 14 December 2014. He is currently in his third and final term, having run uncontested in 2018 and 2022.

Ingmar is only the fourth FEI President to become an IOC Member and under his leadership, the FEI as an organisation has earned a strong standing in the Olympic community for its sustainability initiatives, advances in animal welfare, championing of gender diversity, equality and inclusion, and promotion of youth sport.

Chris Riggs wearing a pale blue shirt holding the head of a grey horse in an indoor stable yard
Chris Riggs

Chris Riggs studied veterinary science at the University of Bristol, UK, and received further training in equine surgery at the Royal Veterinary College, UK, where he was awarded a PhD for research into the causes of racehorse fractures. He subsequently worked at equine referral centres in the UK and Australia before joining the Hong Kong Jockey Club as Head of Veterinary Clinical Services in 2003. He was appointed Director, HKJC Equine Welfare Research Foundation/ Chief Advisor, Mainland Veterinary Engagement in 2019. 

Chris’s clinical interests centre on surgery and orthopaedics, with a particular focus on the role of fatigue damage in bone on racehorse fractures. He also cares deeply about providing opportunities for young colleagues to further their clinical skills.

Chris is a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and holds positions as Adjunct Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, City University, Hong Kong, Special Professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, UK, and Guest Professor at Inner Mongolia Agricultural University.

Bob Langert wearing a brown jacket and white shirt
Bob Langert

Bob Langert led McDonald’s Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability efforts for more than 25 years before retiring in 2015. Currently, he provides corporate sustainability consulting through Mainstream Sustainability.

Bob has been engaged in social responsibility issues at a global level since the late 1980s, leading environmental affairs, animal welfare, and Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities’ grants. He was appointed McDonald’s first vice president to lead sustainability in 2006 with contributions spanning sustainable fish, coffee, palm oil, beef, packaging, extensive animal welfare progress, protecting the Amazon rainforest, nutrition strategy and CSR reporting, measurement, and accountability.

Bob’s book about McDonald’s sustainability journey, The Battle To Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey, was published in January 2019. Langert received his BA from Lewis University and his MBA from Northwestern University. In 2007, Bob was named as one of the 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics by Ethisphere.

Charlie Arnot wearing a dark grey jumper and a bright blue shirt
Charlie Arnot

Charlie Arnot is recognised as a thought leader in food and agriculture who engages audiences across the globe. Charlie has more than 25 years of experience working in communications, public relations and issues management within the food system. He is the founder and president of Look East, an employee-owned consulting firm. He also serves as Chief Executive of the Center for Food Integrity, a international non-profit organisation dedicated to building consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system.

One client said of Charlie’s work, “others help us talk about our business, you help us think differently about who we are and what we do.” His commitment to excellence, innovation and integrity have positioned him as a trusted counselor to Chief Executives, government leaders and executives, and a respected industry advisor on critical issues within the food system. Clients and food and farm industry leaders seek his unique expertise in applying the peer reviewed trust model to help them build trust in their processes, products, people and brands.

Kieren Moffat wearing a black jumper standing against a white background
Kieran Moffat

Kieren Moffat is a social scientist and co-founder and Chief Executive of Voconiq, an engagement science company that has built on over 10 years of research, industry practice, and commercialisation milestones to provide an innovative solution to improve social performance. The Voconiq team has redefined the meaning of social licence to operate, helping customers to harness the relational mechanisms that underpin it – their methods reflect the dynamic nature of these relationships and build trust with the communities they work with.

Kieren is committed to building deeper, more reflective relationships between communities, companies, industries and governments. Over the last 15 years he has worked across a broad range of industries in more than 20 countries using quantitative social psychological research methods to reveal the pathways to deeper community trust for companies and industries, and to provide a voice for community members in decisions that affect their lives.

Kieren was awarded a PhD from The University of Queensland in social and organisational psychology in 2008.

Toby Park wearing a black jumper and blue shirt standing in an office with windows in the background
Toby Park

Toby Park leads the energy, environment and sustainability work at the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK. He has deep expertise in the application of behavioural insights to: Net Zero and nature, including domestic and commercial energy efficiency; water consumption; the transition to low-carbon heating and cooling; electric vehicle adoption; the adoption of active and public transport; waste and circular economy; sustainable diets; and wildlife conservation.

Toby has been principal investigator on over 50 behavioural insights research projects for central UK government departments, non-UK government departments, environmental and energy agencies, global environmental NGOs, and forward-thinking commercial partners. He has also been lead author on all the Behavioural Insights Team’s recent thought leadership in the application of behavioural science to environmental issues, including ‘How to Build a Net Zero Society: Applying behavioural insights to decarbonise home energy, transport, food and material consumption, ‘Menu for Change’ (on sustainable diets), ‘Behaviour Change for Nature’ (on wildlife conservation), and ‘The Little Book of Green Nudges’ with the UN Environment Programme.

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