Boutique law firm NSDV is a breath of fresh air in the African legal profession and the firm’s aspirations to further expand its footprint in Africa is good news for the mining, ESG, construction, energy, and environmental sectors.
By Leon Louw, owner and editor of WhyAfrica.
Read the online version here
Not only is South African-headquartered NSDV the benchmark when it comes to women representation in the legal industry, but NSDV is South Africa’s first fully integrated law and consultancy firm specialising in mining, construction, and environmental law. NSDV employs more than 50% female lawyers, which is very unusual in the legal fraternity.
The company has now firmly established itself as one of the top specialists in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues.
According to Lili Nupen, Director of NSDV, assisting their clients as they expand into Africa is one of NSDV’s top priorities over the next few years.
Nupen has a deep understanding of the African mining industry and has practical experience working on transactions involving both international and local mining companies throughout Africa.
“As we grow our firm and brand, we see the need to assist our clients with their ventures into Africa. By doing more work throughout Africa we not only improve our networks but also widen our knowledge base and capabilities,” says Nupen.
NSDV is currently assisting clients doing business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Mozambique, eSwatini (Swaziland) and Angola.
“Africa is abundantly rich in mineral reserves. There is significant development in mining across Africa and great opportunities for investment. Many of our clients have identified the growth potential in several African countries, and we are there to support our clients,” says Nupen.
The guidance of legal counsel (A breath of fresh air)
According to Helyn Herholdt, Corporate and Commercial Law Specialist at NSDV, the firm has been working with local counsel to assist NSDV’s clients to set up entities and acquire concessions or licences to mine or prospect in the DRC, Mozambique, eSwatini, CAR and Angola, or acquire shares or an interest in local entities which hold such concessions or licences.
Chantal Murdock, Director of NSDV in the mining team states that “This work has a number of regulatory and commercial aspects to it, which often requires the input and guidance of local counsel in the respective countries. We are developing good relationships with some of the most experienced local counsel in these jurisdictions, so that we will be able to assist clients to close transactions and commence operations,” says Murdock.
Murdock adds that operating in Africa does not come without its challenges. “Delayed turn-around times and accurately translating legal documents are common challenges. For our clients the most serious hurdles relate to the logistics of travelling in and out of these countries,” says Murdock.
ESG and opportunities in Africa (A breath of fresh air)
According to Minnette Le Roux, Principal Environmental Specialist at NSDV, the entire African continent provides opportunities. “It is especially in the mining, energy, infrastructure and environmental sectors that we see immense growth potential,” she says.
Le Roux is one of NSDV’s Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) experts. She believes that ESG is closely linked to compliance. “Investors use ESG to value businesses and inform their investment choices. Businesses create ESG reports to appeal to investors and other compliance requirements. Business and compliance go hand-in-hand, ESG defines a company’s financial value and compliance record. A company’s ESG strategy considers reporting on laws and requirements, as well as investor interests, as ESG is closely tied to compliance and seeking funding,” says Le Roux.
ESG stems from the disclosure on sustainable management and the three pillars of sustainability include Environmental, Social and Economics with Governance as the centre to these pillars.
ESG is a quantifiable assessment of sustainability. Therefore, ESG measures the ability of companies to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity. All three the categories (Environmental, Social and Governance) are thus needed to measure sustainability.
Le Roux says measuring ESG could unlock great value for businesses in the mining, construction, and environmental sectors.
“Products and services with higher ESG scores may be able to either command a premium on competing products, or differentiate themselves from competing products,” Le Roux concludes.
Typical datapoint to compile an ESG scorecard (A breath of fresh air)
The 3 primary categories (Environmental, Social and Governance) each have 4 subcategories as indicated below:
Air (this includes carbon emissions)
Energy (electricity usage form renewable or non-renewable resources)
Land (waste disposal, discard disposal and loss of biodiversity)
Training, Health & Safety
Community Development & Corporate Responsibility (mine closure objectives)
Compliance & Risk (Regulatory compliance-, carbon tax legislation, post closure risks)
Each of the subcategories have various indicators, which are the datapoints measured, and then compared against specific reporting standards. As an example, the JSE sustainability disclosure requirements have 278 individual indicators for ESG reporting.
NSDV has developed an ESG scorecard to assist companies in quantifying their ESG contributions.