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How Linda Lupini is building safe, successful and diverse workplaces

Copperleaf’s global vice-president of employee experience strives to win hearts and minds. She is one of BIV's 2024 Influential Women in Business Award winners
Linda Lupini’s career in human resources began when she was asked to support an HR project

As Copperleaf Technologies’ (TSX:CPLF) global vice-president of employee experience, Linda Lupini builds high-performing and healthy teams while leading diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies.

The Vancouver-based enterprise decision analytics software company’s staff doubled to 500 employees since Lupini joined in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she oversaw Copperleaf’s transition to remote work, onboarding about 300 employees in more than 20 countries. In 2021, she supported the company through its IPO – which raised more than $160 million – and two years later led an executive leadership transition plan that included hiring a new CEO.

Born and raised in Montreal, Lupini moved to Vancouver as a teenager with her family and she later earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of British Columbia.

“My mother always cared about social justice, making sure things were fair and that you were generous with other people,” said Lupini. “My father always talked about doing the right thing and being ethical.”

Lupini later took on leadership roles at QLT Inc. and MDA Ltd. (TSX:MDA) – formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates. Recalling how she began her human resources career “by accident” at MDA, Lupini said she was in facilities and project management when she was asked to support an HR project. She soon found herself in a key leadership role.

“I realized that HR could be so much more strategic,” she recalled. “I was the only woman at a table of male executive leaders bringing the HR function into the business. An HR leader in the C-suite is an incredible enabler of achieving business objectives.”

Lupini later held senior executive positions at the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), including executive vice-president of BC Emergency Health Services from 2014 to 2019. She oversaw procurement of $2 billion of supplies and equipment — including personal protective equipment for 100,000 frontline workers. She also oversaw the development of the LifeGuard Digital Health App, the first tech tool designed to reduce opioid deaths in B.C., and the PulsePoint CPR App designed to reduce deaths from cardiac arrests.

Commissioning a three-year action plan to transform the ambulance service, Lupini secured $100 million in government funding — the largest investment in the service’s history. She led organizational restructuring, brought people from underrepresented groups into leadership roles, created the service’s first Indigenous community liaison, and implemented its first formal and funded mental health program for employees.

“In my heart, running the ambulance service was special,” said Lupini. “To watch people go above and beyond, working tirelessly to make sure people got the help they needed was fantastically rewarding. It was also my most challenging job.”

A recipient of The Globe and Mail’s Best Executive Award in 2022, Lupini said HR leadership at the executive level is vital due to societal power shifts. A member of Copperleaf’s environmental, social, and governance steering committee, Lupini works to ensure the company supports employees’ lived experiences in order to create a culture that is safe, trusting and transparent.

“Everybody who comes to work brings their whole self. People want to feel safe and they want to feel valued. The whole discussion around psychological safety is really important, and that’s connected to DEI.”

Diverse and high-trust teams are more productive and experience less stress, according to Lupini.

“That trust can really only be built if you feel safe. Diversity is really important on teams and across an organization, but you have to have a culture of psychological safety. People should be able to get up and challenge anybody in the organization, including the CEO.”

To do DEI work, companies need to understand diversity, and spend time and resources developing a diverse staff with complementary skills.

“If you want to win hearts and minds and have people go forward together, have a good experience and deliver for an organization, they have to be their authentic selves. You can’t separate a person from their personal lived experience,” she said.

Lupini overhauled Copperleaf’s hiring practices and expanded benefits to ensure more diversity. She set DEI initiatives to reduce disparity in pay and professional development, promoted leadership diversity and rolled out unconscious-bias training.

Over the years, Lupini has held several board positions. From 2004 to 2010, she was board member and vice-chair of BioTalent Canada, which Lupini said was undertaking groundbreaking work.

“It was one of the first times we had biotech companies all across the country share their pain points, their goals and struggles, and we worked collaboratively to assist each other,” she said.

Her other volunteer work included serving as an advisory council member for Simon Fraser University’s Biotechnology MBA program, and serving on the boards of Life Sciences BC (formerly B.C. Biotech), E-Comm 911 and Skoah Inc.

BIV will recognize the achievements of six female leaders at the 25th Annual Influential Women in Business Awards on March 8. For details and tickets, visit