Paul J. Sobel was approaching a crossroads in his long career when Georgia-Pacific Corp came calling to ask him to serve as its chief audit executive. Sobel previously performed the same role at three other public companies—two in the energy business and one in publishing—and before that was a partner at the late accounting firm Arthur Andersen, leaving just prior to its collapse. “I really knew very little about the paper, pulp and building products industry, but G-P put a great opportunity in front of me,” he explains.
The opportunity was to develop a methodology for enterprise risk management at the Atlanta-based manufacturer. Sobel is something of an ERM pioneer. He first learned about this holistic process for identifying, assessing and mitigating potential risk exposures in the 1990s at Andersen, and in 2003, wrote one of the first books on the subject from an auditor’s perspective—“Auditor’s Risk Management Guide: Integrating Auditing and ERM.” Sobel also implemented ERM at Mirant Corp. and Aquila, his two previous employers.
Although he concedes that after only a year and a half at Georgia-Pacific, he is still at the starting line in implementing ERM, Sobel says its principles are already inspiring managers and employees to develop ideas for improving risk identification and mitigation in their respective areas.
His work to date receives praise from Georgia-Pacific CFO Tyler Woolson. “Paul brought a strong base of audit and risk management knowledge to Georgia-Pacific, as well as the leadership experience to move this knowledge from theory to practice, which will continue to benefit our organization over time,” Woolson says.