Canadian Lawyer

March 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 43 of 51

42 FEATURE DEPARTMENT PROFILE NAVIGATING OBSTACLES presented by the ongoing pandemic crisis has been a significant responsibility for the legal depart- ment at Maple Leaf Foods Inc. over the past two years. The lean team juggled a vastly increased workload as standard tasks such as routine contracting became much more challenging. The team had to consider many issues, ranging from supply chain disrup- tions and force majeure considerations to health and safety, and privacy matters relating to employees' health information. "COVID-19 just added an extra layer of complication into every aspect of what we would normally do," says Suzanne Hathaway, senior vice president, general counsel, at the Mississauga, Ont.-based Canadian consumer packaged goods company. "Everything suddenly needed more attention and more thought." As the organization implemented a mandator y vaccination polic y for employees, Maple Leaf offered vaccination clinics at many of its sites, so Hathaway's team had to consider related legal issues and privacy concerns. When Hathaway first joined Maple Leaf in March 2019, one of her initial goals was to broaden the reach of the legal depart- ment — a strategy that served the team well during the pandemic crisis. "I wanted to build a level of engage- ment with the business, and I found that COVID really amplified the need for that," says Hathaway. The legal team's deep involvement in the business allowed it to support all the cross-functional initiatives needed throughout the pandemic. "We were in the midst of a crisis, doing a trial by fire, getting a really deep understanding of the business and the people that were running it, and how COVID was impacting that." The legal team — which consists of three full-time lawyers and one working part- time, as well as four support staff — rapidly pivoted to working from home at the start of the pandemic and adopted new technologies to stay connected. They introduced weekly touchpoints, which helped bring the team closer together, Hathaway says. The team launched a contract lifestyle management approach last year to boost efficiencies, which will modernize many of The legal department at Maple Leaf Foods leverages engagement with the business to overcome challenges and support new strategies Turning a crisis into an opportunity the processes in place, so Hathaway plans to continue advancing and leveraging that tech- nology within her team. "In many ways, the pandemic shone a light on the areas where we may have opportunities to improve those processes, which is a nice opportunity," says Hathaway. Another key priority for the legal depart- ment at Maple Leaf is working closely with the sustainability team on many initiatives, including supporting the organizational vision to become the most sustainable protein company in the world. In 2019, Maple Leaf was named one of just three animal protein companies globally and the only food company in Canada to set science-based targets aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The organization was also named the first major carbon-neutral food company globally. The legal team is working closely with partners in Maple Leaf Foods boasts strong sustainability efforts and goals that involve initiatives in four key areas: better food better care for our animals better community for our people better planet for all Maple Leaf became the first Canadian food company to adopt science-based targets in 2019. It was declared the world's first major carbon-neutral food company and aims to reduce its environmental footprint by 50 per cent by 2025. SUSTAINABILITY GOALS AT MAPLE LEAF

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