Developing an ethical compass for a business takes time and skill, says Jobanputra
In-house lawyers often develop a broad range of business skills which makes them uniquely qualified to transition into related areas of the business. As senior director of compliance and ethics at Loblaw Companies Ltd., Jennifer Jobanputra sees herself as an active leader in upholding the company’s commitment to integrity and ethical standards. She leads the vision and strategy for defining an ethics program for the company, and navigates a wide range of responsibilities including working cross-functionally to develop an ethics program and monitoring programs on topics such as antitrust, proprietary information, anti-bribery and corruption.
“I wanted to do something that’s not just legal related but also suits my business background,” says Jobanputra. “More companies are starting to see the value of having lawyers move into non-traditional roles because of the way lawyers think and see risk differently than other professionals.” As a fairly new focal point for many businesses, and one that is hard to define, ethics holds a particular interest for her. More and more companies are starting to look at ethics as an enterprise so determining an ethical compass for a company takes a tremendous amount of time and skill, Jobanputra says.
Jobanputra has spent almost seven years in total with the George Weston group of companies – Loblaw’s parent company – initially in a real estate law role at Loblaw Companies and later as director of compliance and business engagement at George Weston, before she moved to her current role in Oct. 2019. Her real estate background also includes in-house stints at Moxies Grill & Bar, and more recently at Choice Properties REIT where she supported M&A transactions, property development, leasing, property management and operations nationally.
Jobanputra and her 12-person team recently revamped and simplified Loblaw’s Code of Conduct to create a new document that is easy for their colleagues throughout the organization to understand. The revised document which launched in late 2020 sets out the expectations of the company and the pillars of its ethics program.
The second building block of Loblaw’s ethics program was a separate code of conduct for suppliers which Jobanputra and her team aligned with the company’s updated colleague code. They also initiated an integrity action line which is available 24/7. It provides a resource for employees to report and log non-compliant or unethical issues which arise in the business so that the issue can be quickly dealt with.
Jobanputra’s team is also involved in training all employees at Loblaw on compliance and ethics matters to ensure that everyone is aligned on messaging.
“Communication is a huge part of the work that we do because we have to have our voice heard throughout the entire company, so we’re very much aligned with our communications team in terms of rolling out messaging and rolling out training,” she says.
The compliance & ethics team works closely with all areas of the business, and they are looped in on all projects and organizational changes from the start, so that they are ready and able to address compliance and ethics issues.
“Being able to present at board meetings and management meetings has been really helpful because I’m able to learn a lot from upper management in terms of how they view compliance and ethics, and then we’re able to build their values and ideas into a program,” says Jobanputra.
The team is focused on introducing compliance initiatives in a way that is easy to understand so they recently introduced technology to simplify the process of procedural reporting. Employees can use an app from a cell phone or laptop for procedural reporting. They are also exploring internal technology options to allow for better collaboration on projects and shared work.
Although she is currently away from the company on maternity leave, Jobanputra is keeping in regular contact with her team, and she looks forward to returning in six months to tackle new compliance and ethics issues that have come to the forefront.
“What’s interesting about Loblaw is this increasing ability and focus on adapting to technology,” says Jobanputra. “They’re doing a lot of amazing things with data and analytics which I think we’ll start to see in the future. I loved my time in law but I think there’s a lot more opportunity for me in the business world and so I’d love to continue to grow with the company in a business role.”