Bradley returned to her roots in Saskatchewan to manage a crisis
GROWING UP in a rural farming community in Saskatchewan and attending the University of Saskatchewan, Noralee Bradley felt that her career had come full circle when she was offered a role at Saskatoon-based Canadian fertilizer giant, Nutrien. With 30 years of private practice experience under her belt in positions at the Calgary offices of Blakes Cassels & Graydon LLP, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt and Bennett Jones LLP, Bradley joined the global company as executive vice president and chief legal officer in March 2020 — her first foray into an in-house counsel role.
As a member of the executive team, Bradley contributes to strategic decisions for Nutrien, a global producer and distributor of potash, nitrogen and phosphate products for agriculture, industrial and feed customers. As chief legal officer, she also leads the legal function, consisting of a 60-person global legal team, with representatives in Canada, the US, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Trinidad and Belgium.
Joining Nutrien at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bradley immediately started in crisis mode.
“I was not only getting integrated into the company but also thrown right into making some of those very strategic decisions very quickly,” says Bradley. “Given our purpose of growing the world from the ground up and supporting food supply, we were very focused on keeping our facilities and operations going, and also keeping our employees safe and informed because there was a lot of uncertainty.”
As an essential service, business continued throughout the pandemic, but Bradley and her team rapidly implemented safety restrictions on operations and moved corporate functions to remote work. In addition, Nutrien quickly established a COVID task force which included operational support from all areas of the business. As part of that task force, Bradley’s legal team collaborated with functions including HR, health and safety and the environment group to think about ways to keep operations going and employees safe.
“We also had to consider all the different geographies which were dealing with different regulations from their governments and different circumstances in terms of how fast the virus was spreading,” says Bradley. Nutrien employs over 23,000 people and has operations and investments in 13 countries around the world.
As part of the task force, Bradley’s team worked collaboratively with other departments and functions to introduce a tracing app developed by Triax Technologies and ensure the company implemented it within legal guidelines and privacy regulations. “Proximity Trace” tags were rolled out across facilities and mine sites and attached to workers’ clothing or hard hats to produce an audio and visual alert to those who come within six feet of one another. These sensors also automatically log data for Nutrien leaders to quickly perform contact tracing if a positive case arises.
Initially deployed at Nutrien’s nitrogen and phosphate sites in the US, Nutrien later rolled Proximity Trace out at potash mines in Saskatchewan and corporate offices in Colorado, Illinois, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Since implementing the technology, Nutrien has been able to safely support as many as 1,700 employees and contractors at its nitrogen and phosphate sites simultaneously. The physical distancing alerts have reduced the number of close contacts, positive cases and quarantines. Additionally, the automated data system has improved the efficiency and accuracy of contact tracing.
The legal department is also involved in supporting Nutrien’s “Feeding the Future” plan, which includes a series of ESG commitments to be achieved by 2030. These commitments involve feeding the planet sustainably, reaching at least a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and inclusive agriculture. This form of agriculture aims to support rural livelihoods and increase the participation of underrepresented stakeholders in agriculture.
“I have a passion around inclusion on a bunch of metrics, but the fact that we are including inclusive agriculture as one of our main pillars in our ESG reporting is really exciting,” says Bradley. “We’re extending our reach to have an inclusive workforce and inclusive products that help our farming and growing communities in all of our geographies.” Nutrien’s network of over 2,000 retail locations in seven countries provides a wide range of products and services to help growers worldwide. In addition, the company offers customers agriculture solutions, including nutrients, crop protection products, seeds, services and digital tools.
Technology is critical to Bradley in her role as chief legal officer, so she is exploring new ways to enhance efficiencies within her team. For example, Nutrien’s 6,000 corporate employees worldwide have depended on Microsoft Teams to stay connected during the pandemic. Bradley’s team is also using Power BI to track billing cycles and spending with external service providers.
External counsel partners support the legal team in its focus on growth for the business, including transformational projects and M&A transactions, particularly in the retail space. They also assist with integrating new businesses to ensure the proper training is in place to establish appropriate standards. Bradley also leans on external counsel for global risk, compliance and integrity matters.
“We have a great team that helps us with the implementation of our various codes and policies and ensuring we get the right training in place to establish the appropriate standards,” she says.
Bradley’s current focus is on building the “legal department of the future,” which focuses on the evolution of integrity programs to ensure that the company conducts business with integrity and ethics in mind. She also plans to optimize the working experience for her 60-person legal team to ensure they have the most rewarding experience and the best developmental opportunities.
“The legal department of the future is about delivering that service to give the best possible result for our business partners. It’s a very exciting time to be chief legal officer at Nutrien,” says Bradley.
Name: Noralee Bradley
Title: Executive vice president, chief legal officer
Years in the industry: 30+
Career highlight: I have fond memories of my time in private practice because I was involved in transactions of national importance, but being offered the role at Nutrien has been my career highlight. This role allows me to be a part of that Canadian champion that has a global impact. Leading the legal team to fulfill its purpose pools everything from my prior experience in private practice and provides me with an opportunity to stretch and develop as part of an executive team and as the leader of the legal team.
- Served on Calgary Chapter Executive of the Institute of Corporate Directors
- Member of the Calgary United Way Board
- Was a member of the Calgary Petroleum Board of Governors
- Holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) and a Juris Doctor, Law (with Great Distinction) from the University of Saskatchewan
- Admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1991
- Completed the Executive Leadership Program at Western University’s Ivey Business School in 2016
- Received an Alberta Queen’s Counsel appointment in 2020