Making a Difference In-House and Beyond – An Interview with the Anglo American and De Beers Group Legal Team

Making a Difference In-House and Beyond – An Interview with the Anglo American and De Beers Group Legal Team

When you work in-house for a company with global reach and global responsibilities, it offers unique opportunities. Ambassadors for Good is a volunteering project that offers employees of Anglo American and De Beers Group the chance to use their skills to help the communities that need them most worldwide. It started in 2018 in the UK and South Africa and will go on to deliver projects in Canada and Brazil this year.

We spoke to members of the Anglo American legal team – Cecilia Ferreira (Principal Legal Counsel), Jonathan Hoch (Head of Legal: Commercial), and Andrew Donovan (Head of Legal: De Beers North) – about the project. We explored what it  means to them and how legal teams can give back, as well as how it helped them build relationships and gain vital understanding of other teams across the business, as well as establish contacts on the ground in other jurisdictions.

 

Tell us more about the Ambassadors for Good project and how it supported you as a legal team to develop the rule of law in Southern Africa.

 

 “The Ambassadors for Good programme is about having a positive influence in the various communities where we operate,” said Jonathan Hoch. “One of the issues I'm very passionate about is the importance of rule of law and its role in terms of making a difference in the jurisdictions where we find our most challenging operational environments.”

 “We operate in several jurisdictions in Southern Africa and we realised we could use our position and our group as a platform to help an organisation like the ILBF – the International Law Book Facility,” continued Jonathan. “We reached out to colleagues in various jurisdictions to help us make connections to see who we could identify as potential beneficiaries to make applications to the ILBF.”

 Cecilia Ferreira added: “After receiving applications – generally from developing nations, where the rule of law can be improved – the ILBF collects legal literature from law firms and universities and organises shipments to them. In our project, we focussed on finding beneficiaries in certain jurisdictions in Southern Africa. Last year the main focus was on Zimbabwe.”

 “But we didn’t just drive the project, we were involved at every step,” Cecilia continued. “We secured the funding, actively looked for beneficiaries and then we helped organise the shipments. We even helped packing the books! Still the ILBF did the bulk of the organisation. The company does an amazing job – it was incredible to be able to help them. And help develop and strengthen the rule of law in jurisdictions where it’s needed.”

 “Our project for Ambassadors for Good tapped into the driving principle of the ILBF, helping support the understanding of legal principles in jurisdictions that didn't have easy access to that. Books that would otherwise have been thrown away – the ones collected are often no longer wanted or needed by institutions in this country – are instead given to global beneficiaries who need them most.”

 This project allowed us to truly make a difference,” said Jonathan. “It was also important because we were able to send a message to lawyers in Zimbabwe that there is a fraternity of lawyers out there who believe in the rule of law. It hopefully showed them that we are willing to get involved and try and find ways to support this – and them.”

 

 

 What would you highlight as the key benefits for the legal team with regards to being involved in this project?

 

 “For those of us working in the corporate centre, getting insights from different teams and colleagues we wouldn’t ordinarily work with has been invaluable to our general working practices,” Andrew Donovan keenly observed. “When working as part of an in-house legal function understanding the business in all its facets is key if you want to make a difference.”

 “It was also great to be able to meet other like-minded professionals, from within our company and from external law firms, like Clifford Chance – we worked with them packing up the books – who also wanted to support the ILBF on their mission,” Jonathan added.

 

What advice would you offer to other in-house legal teams looking to similarly influence strategic and critical issues in their line of business?

 

 “From an Anglo American and De Beers perspective, what helped us with our recent project was our global footprint and the resources that we've got on the ground. But not every team has that at their disposal, especially those in smaller companies” explained Andrew. “But my advice to them would be to seek partnerships. In the macro sense, for large projects like this, that means partnering with the right organisations. But in-house, it means finding people who have the knowledge, the background, and the network you can tap into. It means educating yourself and paying attention. From there, you can complement this solid foundation with additional resources – even the spirit of volunteering. It’s about marrying up a number of things.”

 “The Ambassadors for Good project has a format that worked pretty well – empowering people is a solid strategy,” Cecilia added. “We found that encouraging employees to use their time during working hours for the project was particularly beneficial. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to use their time and even their overtime in order to make a difference. Just encouraging that I'm sure would make a big change for an organisation.”

 

What else do you think would help legal teams looking to make a difference?

 

 “Visibility,” said Jonathan. “Sharing knowledge and best learnings from previous tasks and projects across the company makes a big difference, especially with future uptake. It casts a positive light on the company objectives. For us, we were able to focus on this project because it resonated with us personally, but also because it fitted with our company objectives on sustainability – it supported the reputation of the company. That’s important. It’s simple, but knowing what your company wants allows you to find ways to deliver it.”

 

Do you think legal teams are uniquely placed to support and drive company culture – and culture in the wider business sphere?

 

 “I think there are certainly opportunities where the legal team could go further, and get involved with setting certain standards they think are appropriate,” Jonathan said. “There are areas where we try and get involved with the business beyond our team, and even outside of the organisation. We look for opportunities where we can support and align objectives. The legal team is well placed in certain areas to do that – for example, in human rights and the rule of law. Those are areas where issues are more aligned with our day to day work. It’s also important to stay focussed on what’s happening now in order to see how we can potentially best position the organisation to engage on those issues moving forwards.”

 Andrew continued: “There’s a lot to learn in terms of how to do things better. Certainly, from the experiences we’ve had in Southern Africa, for example, we’ve seen that proper engagement is vital for making meaningful and positive change, and building relationships. Trying to get best practice from what we’ve learnt and using that elsewhere is very important. We are uniquely placed to learn from multiple sources – from those we collaborate with, and those we are in direct competition with as well – and apply that to our work, both in our team and beyond.”

 “It was also very beneficial in terms of developing and creating relationships with our colleagues and like-minded people in the industry and on the ground in jurisdictions we’re active in,” Jonathan shared. “We realised quickly that we had the connections necessary to make a real impact. We reached out to a colleague in-country who was very open and enthusiastic about what we were trying to do, for example. It helped significantly that we were able to use his network to identify universities and a legal resource centre in Zimbabwe that were very keen to receive the legal textbooks that the ILBF had collected. Working together – lawyers across various jurisdictions – we were able to find the right beneficiaries and use our footprint to get the books where they needed to go.”

 

 Is it possible for legal teams to influence ethics in the wider sphere?

 

 “One major issue we encounter in our industry is the ethical sourcing of diamonds,” Andrew explained. “There are some real challenges from an ethical and human rights perspective. De Beers tries to work with NGOs, with operations that meet certain requirements, in order to raise the standards of living and working conditions. It’s a long term project, but one we are passionate about. And one we, as lawyers, can learn a lot from. It will benefit the people working there, but also the country’s economy ultimately. If De Beers and Anglo American can help with that, then that’s a really positive thing to do and it makes commercial sense as well over time. Our work can have huge social impact benefits.”

 

Do you have any final advice for lawyers looking to make a difference in projects like Ambassadors for Good, and in-house?

 

 “Don’t be afraid to try,” said Jonathan. “For my part, working for Ambassadors for Good has made me very proud of the organisation I work for. We’re trying to do the right thing, and that can never be wrong. But, from a business perspective, keep in mind that, for very little investment from the corporation, you can get a lot of potential positive win out of it – both in terms of ethical impact, and everyday working practices.”

 “Also, be open to opportunities and support from across the industry. You never know when inspiration might strike. When the Ambassadors for Good project first launched, I was wondering how, as a legal team, we could get involved, and I just happened to be attending one of the RELX Rule of Law Cafés and was speaking the CEO of the ILBF, Katrina Crossley, about the rule of law and the penny dropped that this was a natural area for us to get involved.”

 

 

Images by: The International Law Book Facility

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LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation

 

 Advancing the rule of law around the world is LexisNexis’s fundamental purpose as a company.

 We believe there are four key areas that form the umbrella protection of the rule of law.

 

●  Equality under the law: All people, businesses, and governments are accountable, and the law applies to everyone in the same way, no matter who you are.

●  Transparency of law: Laws must be clear, precise, affordable and accessible while protecting fundamental human rights.

●  Independent Judiciary: An independent judiciary ensures equality and fairness of law between people and public officials.

●  Accessible Legal Remedy: There must be access to timely resolution in a court of law.

 

 According to the United Nations, there are five billion people around the globe living outside the umbrella protections of the rule of law. But the more we can advance and spread these protections, the more we can improve individuals’ lives and society, and the more we can drive economic prosperity (as evidenced above).

 As part of our commitment, we have set up the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation. The Foundation is a not-for-profit entity established to further our mission of advancing the rule of law, working with organisations around the world to make a difference to as many people as possible, leveraging the core skills, tools, and assets of our global business. 

 As James Harper, Executive Sponsor Rule of Law at LexisNexis UK, explains: ”The Rule of Law is at the very heart of who we are and what we are trying to achieve. In the UK, we have focused on driving access to justice, as more and more people are denied legal advice and help at a time in their lives when they need it most. Working in partnership with the key bodies across the free legal advice community, we are using our technology skills and knowledge to help drive efficiency and effectiveness and increase the capacity of the sector.”

Watch James Harper, who leads our Rule of Law initiatives at LexisNexis, articulate in just 90 seconds the four key elements that make up the Rule of Law.

 

Why your business should care about the rule of law

 

Find out from James Harper, in just 90 seconds, why it is in the businesses’ own interests to not only care about the rule of law, but to consider governance projects supporting the development of the rule of law as meriting support in pro bono or similar initiatives.

 

 For more information about the not-for-profit LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation and the RELX Rule of Law Cafés, please visit: https://www.lexisnexisrolfoundation.org/.

 

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About the author:

Lucy is the Market Development Director for our in-house community. Lucy worked as a lawyer in private practice for 10 years, specialising in Private Equity and Competition Law, most recently at Linklaters LLP, including a 6-month secondment to the in-house legal team at the Princes Trust.

Lucy is responsible for the market strategy and overall product portfolio for LexisNexis' in-house customers, working to capture and analyse deep market insight to deliver tailored products that enable in-house teams to deliver value to their businesses.