Chris Figel focuses on sustainability disclosure at AirBoss of America

Gathering data consistently from the company's three distinct divisions poses challenges

Chris Figel focuses on sustainability disclosure at AirBoss of America
Chris Figel, executive vice president and general counsel, AirBoss of America

As the sole lawyer at AirBoss of America Corp., Chris Figel keeps up to speed with ever-evolving disclosure requirements for the Toronto-based chemical and manufacturing company, and he takes responsibility for securities law compliance. In his role as executive vice president and general counsel, he also works closely with the finance and investor relations teams with regard to public disclosure.

Sustainability disclosure is top of mind for Figel this year, given the rapidly increasing interest in ESG matters.

“Sustainability has generally become much more important to investors, and a lot of our customers are focusing on it as well, so they are asking us for information,” says Figel. “Companies that we’re supplying are asking us, and in turn, we’re asking our supply chain.”

Figel helped to role out a sustainability report for the company in March this year, as part of the company’s expanding ESG goals. This involved gathering data from the company’s three distinct business divisions across North America: Rubber Solutions, AirBoss Defense Group and Engineered Products. This posed a number of challenges.

“Data collection is paramount to properly expose information, so we’ve been working with various people across the different divisions to formalize how we collect data, what we’re collecting, and to ensure there is consistency of information,” says Figel, who has been with AirBoss for four-and-a-half years. “Building up that information so we can present it properly was a challenge in itself.” The report was very well received by the investment community, Figel says.

Navigating the ever-evolving regulatory landscape around disclosure has been another priority for Figel. He is keeping an eye on mandatory disclosures in the US that do not currently apply in Canada, but are likely to follow suit soon.

The residual effects of COVID are still being felt across the manufacturing industry, so another of Figel’s key challenges is negotiating and drafting supplier customer contracts at a time of ongoing supply chain challenges and increased freight costs.

Although he is the only in-house lawyer at AirBoss, Figel works closely with a director of compliance, a director of sustainability, a corporate analyst and a summer student. He also oversees a long list of external counsel partners across North America and globally, all of whom were selected for their commitment to understanding and supporting the business.

Communication between legal and other divisions is key to supporting the goals of the business, in Figel’s view.

“Historically, AirBoss had a bit of a siloed approach,” he says. “I think it’s important that people know who we are, and they understand they can reach out to us for assistance, whether the matter is technically of a legal nature or not.” This was particularly important during the pandemic as travel restrictions prevented Figel from visiting the company’s global facilities as often as he would have liked, so he continues to strive to be accessible to his colleagues.

Continuing to focus on sustainability is a key goal for Figel for the remainder of the year.

“We’re building up the strength in our systems because all indications are that sustainability is going to become more and more regimented and regulated, and disclosure will be mandated, so we’re getting ready to handle all of that in advance,” he says. He is also focused on data management and document automation to improve efficiencies.

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