GC Profile: Christy Elliott supports growth through sustainability at Parkland Corp.

Elliott brings ESG goals to the forefront as the company continues its rapid growth trajectory

GC Profile: Christy Elliott supports growth through sustainability at Parkland Corp.
Christy Elliott, Parkland Corporation

Since joining Parkland Corporation six years ago, Christy Elliott has guided the Calgary, Alberta-based company through numerous acquisitions, allowing the business to grow fivefold. In 2021 alone, Parkland acquired 14 new companies and now boasts operations in 25 countries worldwide. 

Elliott started her career at a litigation boutique where she focused on corporate commercial litigation. She then had the opportunity in 2016 to take her skills to Parkland – a convenience store operator and fuel retailing company – as legal counsel. Initially taking responsibility for litigation, regulatory, and anti-trust work, Elliott gradually moved into the general counsel role as the company rapidly grew. 

Within her first 18 months at Parkland, Elliott saw the company go through two acquisitions that doubled its business, and the growth has not slowed.  

As the business grew, Elliott’s role also evolved and expanded. She added sustainability to her role in 2018 when she also started to take responsibility for external relations and Indigenous engagement.  

“We’ve continued growing and continue to do a lot of acquisitions, and so as the business has grown, my team has grown, and our responsibilities have grown as well,” says Elliott. 

As senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief sustainability officer, Elliott handles all legal and regulatory matters for Parkland’s operations across Canada, the US, and the Caribbean. Her mandate includes mergers and acquisitions, legal work around financing, corporate securities, and litigation. She also oversees compliance work locally in the company’s various jurisdictions. Elliott also manages board and governance work as corporate secretary and ESG matters under her chief sustainability officer hat.  

“We’ve always done a lot around ESG as a business, but we didn’t necessarily tell anybody about it, so we released our inaugural sustainability report in 2020 and then followed it up last year with a more detailed report that includes all of our targets,” says Elliott. The Drive to Zero 2021 sustainability report was just published in July this year, outlining the company’s enterprise-wide sustainability  and providing a framework for establishing baselines and targets. The report highlights progress, including goals for achieving zero safety incidents and spills, upholding zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, corruption, bribery, and unethical behaviour, and supporting the government’s goals of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Elliott and her team were involved in helping to gather greenhouse gas data and set targets across the enterprise.  

Parkland recently announced that it would build a renewable diesel facility at its Burnaby refinery in British Columbia, able to produce approximately 6,500 barrels of renewable diesel per day. The British Columbia government is partly funding this project, so Elliott is involved in ongoing discussions with the government about clean fuel standards and different policy items that are important to Parkland.  

Elliott and her team work with different Indigenous communities on joint ventures that benefit both parties. Parkland operates in many small communities across North America and the Caribbean, so Elliott needs to ensure that the business operates in a way that protects those communities. 

“We’re passionate about operating in an environmentally sustainable way so communities can continue to thrive, while we’re also providing them with the services that they need every day,” she says. 

Continuing to support the company’s rapid growth trajectory is an important goal for Elliott. As an owner of the flagship convenience brand On the Run, Parkland aggressively aims to own at least 1,000 On the Run locations by 2024.  

Keeping on top of regulatory changes is another priority for Elliott. 

“It’s really about making sure that we are pushing and operating in a safe, sustainable way, but in a way that’s also compliant with the jurisdictions in which we operate,” says Elliott. “It’s complicated when you work in so many countries because the rules of engagement shift and change.” 

Another priority for Elliott and her teams – consisting of around 35 people spread among the sustainability, government relations, and regulatory groups – is intentionally building relationships with the business. Her team focuses on understanding what the company is trying to achieve with each objective, offering advice on risk, and helping business partners achieve their goals more effectively. Elliott adds that being a strategic partner allows Parkland to have a seat at the table in decision-making for the business. 

Elliott favours partners who understand Parkland’s business and culture when retaining external counsel. 

“We move really fast, and we sometimes have a higher risk tolerance than other companies, so we need external counsel who can work within those parameters and be a strategic and trusted partner for us,” says Elliott.  

Elliott and her team are currently working on implementing a contract lifestyle management system to improve efficiencies, which will be particularly helpful for managing the company’s M&A.  

“It’s important for us because we’re so acquisitive,” says Elliott. “Whatever we can automate, we need to automate it, so that’s a big job and something we are working on.” She also supports the business in integrating recently acquired companies. 

Hiring is challenging for Elliott because she strives to select candidates who have the right skills and fit the company’s culture. She prides herself on being fiercely protective of the team culture.  

Elliott concludes, “Having the right team and hiring the right people who understand the importance of forming that strategic partnership with the business and who have a desire to move beyond the legal lens and look broadly at our business and how we can help support it – that is the most important thing for me and my team.”  

FACT FILE:

Name: Christy Elliott 

Company:  Parkland Corporation 

Title:  SVP, general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief sustainability officer 

Years in the industry: 11 

Based: Calgary, Alberta 

Career highlights:  Going to the Supreme Court of Canada when she was in private practice; Working  on Parkland’s acquisitions of the CST and Chevron businesses 

  • Attended the University of Calgary  
  • Began her career at litigation boutique Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP 
  • Worked at the Court of Appeal of Alberta 
  • Joined Parkland as legal counsel in 2016 
  • Appointed vice president, senior general counsel, and corporate secretary in 2018 
  • Appointed chief sustainability officer in 2020 

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