Celgar pulp mill seen in the distance along the Nelson River, British Columbia, Canada, at sunrise

Mercer Welcomes New Directors, Alice Laberge and Janine North

2021 has been an exciting year for Mercer’s Board of Directors, as we welcomed two new Directors to the Board – Alice Laberge and Janine North. Although the two joined the Mercer Board back in February,  they were formally nominated by the Board and elected by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting this past May 28, 2021. Now that Alice and Janine have each joined two of the Board Committees, we’d like to take the time to introduce them on a more personal level. What brought them to where they are today and why do we think they’re a good fit for Mercer? How has being a prominent woman leader in the workplace shaped who they are? All this and more, captured with Alice and Janine.

Alice Laberge F.ICD, Director

Member of Mercer’s Audit Committee and the Compensation and Human Resources Committee

Alice Laberge, Mercer

Alice was born and went to school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She started her career in Calgary as a speech pathologist, eventually moving to British Columbia to pursue an MBA at the University of British Columbia which would give her more flexibility and career options. This led to a corporate finance job in the forest industry at MacMillan Bloedel where she spent over 18 years and afterwards held the role of CFO when the company was taken over by Weyerhaeuser. Not wishing to move south of the border, but always enjoying taking on new challenges, she decided to change industries and accepted a position as CFO at a software company, becoming CEO a few years later. 

While continuing to work full-time, Alice had her first board experience with BC Hydro followed by another with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. Eventually, Alice chose to leave her CEO position to dedicate more time to board work. She has served on a number of different boards in both the public and not-for-profit sectors including the Royal Bank, Catalyst Paper, and SilverBirch Hotels; currently, Alice sits on the boards of Nutrien, Russel Metals, and the BC Cancer Foundation.

The Mercer board is especially appealing to Alice given her past experience in the forest industry and she’s amazed at the changes in the pulp and lumber sectors. Our focus on safety is something that she personally has a passion for. Although she hopes to be able to bring her experience from other boards to the Mercer board, Mercer has given her a wonderful opportunity to learn and become involved in the business in Germany, where culture and approaches can be different than in North America. 

Alice has personally overcome the barriers that women in the forestry industry face. She and her husband have raised three daughters and she strongly believes that until women and men are equal in the home, women will not be truly equal in the workplace. She has found that it is not difficult to recruit capable women to join a board. However, she has observed that many women drop out of corporate life before they reach the highest levels in an organization. More work needs to be done to understand why this is happening.

In her spare time, Alice likes to travel, often on cycling or golf trips (although that’s been seriously curtailed this past year!) She’s hoping that in the not too distant future she can start seeing the world again.

Janine North ICD.D, Director

Member of Mercer’s Audit Committee and the Governance and Nominating Committee

Janine North, Mercer

Janine has spent 90% of her life growing and leading in rural, and often remote, communities with resource industry economies: agriculture, forestry and mining. She has learned her purpose and life lessons literally from the ground up. 

  • In small-town relationships, respect and trust are ingrained from a young age – there is no anonymity and you ‘burn bridges’ at your peril. 
  • Your children also have no anonymity; the whole town helps raise them and keeps tabs on their behaviour, much to their chagrin. 
  • In business and governance, when you are a leader responsible for a high proportion of the community’s payroll and the safe return home to their families each day, it can be like living in a fishbowl. 
  • Accountability is very high; you live your ethics and integrity each day, and a reputation cannot be regained.  

Those are some of the life lessons that Janine brings to governance. She has a passion for great governance and stewarding resources, both people and natural resources. She has participated on boards as a director for 35 years and has seen how connecting purpose and strategy has positively impacted people’s lives. She often brings a different perspective with her rural background compared to her peers with more urban experiences. But this is an aspect of diversity and it is good.

Janine is very proud to be a part of the Mercer team that focuses collectively on vision, purpose, strategy, and oversight for the business.  We are all in this together and Mercer is a better company for it. Janine loves that the company is decentralized and has its roots in many rural communities.  

Janine is gratified to be part of the journey with each of us to contribute and measure Mercer’s efforts to positively impact the Environment, Social, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) issues of today and the future. ESG is broad, containing many issues, and therefore hugely encompassing. It is a way to think about doing sustainable business that is good for our planet.  It has to be lived, not just seen as a ‘buzzword’. There is no consensus on formal standards. It is subjective. It’s an evolution. And perhaps a revolution in moving away from the short-term ‘quarter over quarter’ focus. Shareholders, employees, activists, boards, and the big issues of our generation and future generations, are driving the revolution. Mercer is a leader on this journey, making progress using integrated sustainability reporting and advancing on environmental and social key performance indicators that consider the framework of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Our reports collectively showcase our efforts.

When Janine returns home from a board meeting to her small “community” of Haida Gwaii – 4,500 people spread out over 7 ‘neighbourhoods’, with a backyard archipelago of over 200 islands, 100 kilometres off the northwest coast of British Columbia – her shoulders relax and she lives at a simpler and slower pace.  Janine hikes, kayaks, bikes, and explores the coastlines all while listening to podcasts, audiobooks, music, and the wind. She treasures her experiences, including her opportunity to collaboratively contribute to Mercer’s success with all of us. She looks forward to meeting us in person in the future.