Canadian Lawyer

May 2024

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 30 of 51 29 JENNIFER SUESS COMPANY: RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust TITLE: Senior vice president, general counsel, ESG & corporate secretary The pendulum will swing back to more ESG scrutiny as economy improves In the competitive world of real estate investment trusts (REITs), few companies stand out as much as RioCan – one of Canada's largest REITs. With a portfolio that is predominantly retail based and extends into office and residential spaces, RioCan's strategic positioning in major markets and transit-oriented locations defines its success. Sitting at the legal helm is Jennifer Suess, senior vice president, general counsel, ESG and corporate secretary for the company. As the general counsel, Suess constantly balances the organization's strategic growth with the compliance and regulatory demands of being a public entity in Canada. And, with RioCan's considerable market cap of $6 billion and over 600 employees, it's no small feat. A significant aspect of Suess' role involves spearheading ESG initiatives across the organization, a domain gaining increasing traction among investors. "Effectively embedding ESG across an organization as complex as RioCan has been successful only because we have the attention not just of the board of trustees, which has a dedicated ESG committee at the board level, but also within management," Suess says. Under Suess' stewardship, every RioCan employee incorporates an ESG-specific objective into their annual performance goals, reflecting the company's underlying commitment to these values. Executive-level compensation, too, is directly linked to the development and execution of ESG strategies, a testament to the company's dedication to this cause. "When you're in a depressed economy like we are currently in, there's a tendency for some organizations to take their eye off of ESG because companies are worried about very real things such as making their debt payments and managing through what is anticipated by many to be a financially bumpy 2024. We know, however, that when the pendulum swings back to a more stable economic environment, the scrutiny that investors bring to ESG will not have disappeared." RICHARD PFOHL COMPANY: Music Canada TITLE: General counsel The challenges of IP and AI in the music industry How do you categorically prove intellectual property infringement in the creative sector? For Richard Pfohl, general counsel at Music Canada, it's an ever-pressing concern. Coming from the tech sector to the music world, however, gave him a learned ability to adapt and evolve – something that's become a core skill. "At McCarthy Tétrault I was a technology lawyer in their technology, communications, and IP group," he says. "One day, I got a call from Music Canada's predecessor association saying, 'Hi, we're the music industry, and we could really use a tech lawyer on staff right now.' And they were right." Pfohl has worked at Music Canada since 2003, and in that time, he's witnessed an immense amount of change. Technology really drives the music industry, says Pfohl, especially with the move to digital. An increasing reliance on technology, coupled with the rise of AI in content creation, means Pfohl's role at Music Canada is a critical one. "During my time at Music Canada, the way our industry operates has fundamentally evolved," he says. "We used to primarily be about selling physical objects. Then, it was selling digital downloads. And now we've evolved again to commercial streaming services – that's where the bulk of industry revenue comes from today." AI poses both great opportunities and challenges in the legal space. For in-house legal teams, concerns remain around compliance. Pfohl says music companies have been using AI to make music for many years. "Now what we're seeing is potentially even more fundamental transformative challenges from AI that may upend the way that our industry works." This advancement raises significant questions about copyright law and its ability to protect artists' unique creations in the face of such technological capabilities.

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