HomeNewsNorton Rose Fulbright: Corporate social responsibility in mining must be prioritised

Norton Rose Fulbright: Corporate social responsibility in mining must be prioritised

Together with the High Commission of Canada in South Africa and advisory firm Eunomix, Norton Rose Fulbright, has hosted two panel discussion events over the course of 2016 and 2017 that bring key industry players and mining companies together to learn about the benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and how best to incorporate them into their businesses.

To attend the third Norton Rose Fulbright event in this series on 7 November 2017 in Johannesburg please see details at the end of this article.

The most recent event was part of the High Commission of Canada and its partners’ longer term strategy to support CSR efforts in South Africa, building on the first even discussion at the 2016’s Investing in African Mining Indaba.

This included a seminar moderated by Susan Bincoletto (Chief Trade Commissioner/Global Affairs Canada) and panelists Pierre Gratton (Mining Association of Canada), Jeffery Davidson (CSR Counsellor/Global Affairs Canada), Oumar Toguyeni (IAMGOLD), and Marian Campbell Jarvis (ADM Minerals and Metals/Natural Resources Canada).

The event was well-attended by mostly senior executives from various organisations (mining companies, NGOs and academics).

Ultimately, the key theme and outcome from the events was to remind industry that the biggest risk faced by mining companies is a failure to maintain their social licence to operate and that CSR (if done properly), is a way of mitigating this risk.

Understanding CSR in South Africa

The main topics raised by the panellists include the following:

  • Internationally, the concept of CSR is often seen as ambiguous and its implementation can fluctuate, based on these multiple definitions. CSR is largely a Western construct and therefore expectations of CSR in developing countries with weak governments tend to be too high. The industry is unlikely to police itself if there aren’t appropriate incentives in place and so CSR often amounts to mere window-dressing
  • The CSR framework is reasonably well defined in South Africa through the King Reports on Corporate Governance (guidelines for governance structures first issued in 1994 and revised since). King Code IV may offer a useful framework as it is more outcomes-focused. It provides for social and ethics committees, integrated reporting and the requirement for boards to consider the role of stakeholders.
  • It was agreed that we cannot ignore SA’s history and that CSR in SA is seen as “a vehicle of restorative justice to redress apartheid”
  • Despite the admirable frameworks in place (SA is one of only two countries in the world that has legislated social responsibility), CSR outcomes are often seen as poor and limited, and their goals unclear

A good start

A solution raised at the event which would work well towards encouraging CSR was the establishment of a centralised fund which all mining companies contribute towards which would be used by communities to obtain legal advice and other capacity-building support to ensure that they can engage with other stakeholders on a level playing field.

Mining companies also need to recognise that communities often have conflicting interests, and so engagement must take place with interest groups within the communities.

Immediate steps and action plans

Service and labour plans (SLPs) need to be aligned with government development plans with local municipalities’ integrated development plans (IDPs), to ensure that CSR projects appropriate to the specific communities’ needs are put in place and can be implemented properly.

The industry needs to take control of the conversation, and engage more broadly on CSR issues, especially with local governments, as more dialogue is required.

Community perceptions of mining projects are essential and obtaining a social licence to operate from surrounding communities will surely contribute to decrease operational risks. Using social media has been identified as a good practice to further engage with communities.

In CSR strategies, more collaboration should be developed with other sectors of the economy.

The industry typically makes the biggest financial contributions to the communities in which it operates, but it may not be entirely fair to place this burden on the industry alone.

The traditional approach of CSR, where mining firms were developing programmes predominantly aimed at ticking compliance boxes, is no longer acceptable.

Monitoring and evaluation by independent bodies (or perhaps government), as well as transparency, are lacking and are sorely needed.


It was recognised that mining cannot continue with “business as usual” and improving the outcomes of CSR is critical. The panellists also reached agreement that good CSR or social investment strategies cannot be an afterthought.

A new form of stakeholder engagement is required, one that balances the demands of multiple groups.

In South Africa, the situation is further complicated by industry’s need to recognise and address the nation’s turbulent past to achieve progress in trust building between stakeholders.

If mining companies can start aligning their investments with the underlying and long-term needs of their disparate stakeholders, and further explore the concept of shared value – demonstrating the interconnectedness of corporate competitiveness and community prosperity – they could earn not only the social license to operate, but also the license to grow.

Be part of the next CSR discussion

Norton Rose Fulbright, together with its partners, will be hosting a third CSR-focused seminar on 7 November 2017 at the Johannesburg Country Club in Aucklandpark, Johannesburg.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Claude Baissac, MD, Eunomix
  • Greg Nott, director, Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa
  • Zwelinzima Vavi, former general secretary, Cosatu
  • Tebello Chabana, senior executive: public affairs & transformation, Chamber of Mines
  • John Capel, executive director, BenchMarks Foundation
  • AGT Foods
  • Gavin Andersson, director, Seriti Institute
  • Mark Dawes, MD – Namibia, B2Gold
  • Mzila Mthenjane, executive head: stakeholder affairs, Exxaro
  • Peter Major, head of mining, Cadiz Corporate Solutions
  • Mpueleng Pooe, corporate affairs executive, Royal Bafokeng Platinum
  • Tony Harwood, CEO, Montero Mining

To confirm participation, please contact the High Commission of Canada in South Africa here

Feature image credit: Wikimedia Commons