The Founding Partners of the Firm have been heavily involved in legal advisory services involving mining, large-scale infrastructure projects including PPP projects, and other massive developmental projects, all of which inevitably affect the lives of many stakeholders especially the vulnerable sectors such as indigenous cultural communities. For legally mandated corporate social responsibility programs for stakeholders, most companies often employ a "minimum-compliance approach" or "paper-compliance approach.” These approaches however have often been perceived by stakeholders/host communities to be grossly disproportionate when compared to the economic benefits derived from these projects. Thus, companies often face serious economic backlash from recurring work stoppages and protests, riots, endless environmental litigations including writs of kalikasan, which significantly drain resources and derail expansion plans.
To remedy these “social responsibility deficit” in the compliance programs, Atty. Sarmiento has engaged in this unique practice of "social licensing" leveraging from his own experience in the mining world, and his close relationships to civil society groups that he forged through his years as a seminarian and community development worker. In this regard, he has been at the forefront, of negotiating and forging "social pacts" with key stakeholders that take into account their unique demands, needs and circumstances including pleas for safeguards for ancestral burial grounds, protections from climate change/environmental protection, among others.
The concept of “social licensing” originated from the mining industry in the developing world in response to the perceived disenfranchisement of host communities and other relevant stakeholders from the social and economic benefits of mining. Social licensing involves formal and informal agreements between a corporation seeking to extract and develop natural resources and the community affected by these activities, including obtaining the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous cultural communities. The agreements vary according to what matters to citizens and cover social benefits which can include labor standards, environmental protection, provision of roads or schools or safeguards for sacred sites.