Silvana Lavacca – Riachuelo   

Driving success in fashion retail  

Silvana Lavacca, the executive director of legal, governance and risks at Riachuelo, is instrumental in upholding its core values and ensuring its long-standing success in the fashion industry. With a mission to democratize fashion and make it accessible to all, Riachuelo has evolved over its 70-year history to become a retail powerhouse with more than 400 stores spanning 27 Brazilian states.  

Silvana Lavacca | Executive Director of Legal, Governance and Risks | Riachuelo   

Silvana Lavacca | Executive Director of Legal, Governance and Risks | Riachuelo

Lavacca’s leadership underscores the importance of governance and legal compliance within the organization. In a rapidly changing post-pandemic landscape, where a remarkable customer experience has become integral to retail success, she emphasizes the need for Riachuelo to adapt and innovate like a startup while maintaining the integrity of its operations. Lavacca’s efforts to enforce governance measures, including training courses, integrity programs, and policies, ensure that the company operates ethically and in alignment with its values.  

“Efficiency and compliance aren’t opposites; they’re partners in success. Integrating compliance into our business operations ensures regulatory adherence and enhances our overall efficiency and effectiveness. It’s about working together to achieve our organizational goals while upholding the highest standards of integrity and legality,” Lavacca says.  

Strengthening legal and governance 

For 2024, Lavacca has set her sights on several strategic projects to enhance Riachuelo’s legal and governance framework, considering that, for 2024, the whole company is directing its efforts to reinforce the value of its main assets, which are factory, stores, its capillarity, e-commerce/marketplace, technology, logistics and finance.   

One of her key initiatives involves implementing a centralized legal knowledge management system that will assist the legal team in searching for opinions issued in the past on specific topics while also maintaining all associated details and the history of inquiries requested by internal clients. Beyond serving as a repository for legal opinions, relevant case discussions, and critical information, this system will streamline access for legal team members, empowering them to make well-informed decisions. It will be a crucial tool in maximizing the efficiency and quality of provided services. 

Silvana Lavacca | Executive Director of Legal, Governance and Risks | Riachuelo   

In addition to the knowledge management system, Lavacca is driving efforts to promote a culture of compliance throughout the organization. Recognizing the importance of upholding ethical behavior and regulatory compliance, she is developing comprehensive compliance culture programs. These initiatives include training sessions, awareness campaigns, compliance events with external experts and recognition initiatives to instill a strong sense of corporate responsibility among employees.  

However, advanced tools are useless if the human capital is not well-prepared. That’s why she is committed to creating a more comprehensive training track for her team encompassing not only regulatory aspects but also much more about the company’s business. 

“I am committed to investing in the professional development of my team. Through a robust training and development plan, we aim to provide employees with multidisciplinary perspectives on legal and business matters, equipping them with the skills and expertise needed to excel in their roles,” she says.   

Embracing challenges 

Given that Riachuelo is part of the Guararapes Group, which includes the textile industry, fashion retail, financial institutions, transportation, and shopping centers, one of the greatest challenges lies in the diversity of businesses within the group, each subject to different regulations and specificities. Moreover, the group boasts over 30,000 employees and thousands of suppliers, and its parent company is listed on the stock exchange in the highest governance segment, the Novo Mercado. The complexity and regulatory diversity are inherent components of daily operations, and staying updated and informed about the ever-changing business landscape poses a significant challenge.  

Silvana Lavacca | Executive Director of Legal, Governance and Risks | Riachuelo   

Lavacca has embraced AI to enhance efficiency in legal operations, employing technology to conduct daily searches for new lawsuits filed against the company. This technology not only streamlines the process of identifying legal risks but also enables the legal department to prioritize cases more likely to be resolved through agreements.  

Despite the challenges of recruiting and retaining talent in a diverse team, Lavacca is dedicated to ensuring that her team members feel valued and empowered. She emphasizes the importance of soft skills such as flexibility, open-mindedness, and technical expertise in building a diversecohesive and high-performing team that .  offers a multitude of perspectives on various issues. 

A typical day for Lavacca begins with an hour dedicated to reading news and studying relevant topics, followed by meetings and discussions with colleagues. She devotes significant time to understanding the company’s projects and finding ways for her team to contribute to the organization’s success while adhering to legal best practices.  

The hardest part of Lavacca’s job lies in overcoming the stigma associated with discussing risks and regulatory compliance, particularly in a fast-paced industry like retail.   

Silvana Lavacca | Executive Director of Legal, Governance and Risks | Riachuelo   

“I will always advocate for my team and demonstrate the value that the legal department adds to the business,” she says. “I am confident in the positive results we are achieving.”  

Despite the challenges she has faced throughout her career, Lavacca finds fulfillment in the constant learning and exploration that her job entails. She sees each challenge as an opportunity for growth and remains dedicated to leading her team with vision, empathy, and determination. Through her leadership, Lavacca drives Riachuelo toward a future of excellence and integrity in governance and compliance.  

From business administration to legal leadership 

Lavacca’s journey into law wasn’t a predetermined path but rather a natural evolution from her fascination with business and organizational dynamics. Starting her academic journey in business administration at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, she found herself drawn to the transformative power of organizations in shaping lives. Inspired by her multidisciplinary education, she pursued a degree in law at the University of São Paulo, where her interest in tax law blossomed.  

Transitioning from small law firms to corporate roles, Lavacca honed her legal skills at the Votorantim Group, where after a few years of work she became legal general manager. Here, she began to understand the true essence of leadership, a journey that continued as she ventured into tax management at Riachuelo. Challenged by the unfamiliar terrain of the retail industry, Lavacca embraced the opportunity to lead a diverse team, recognizing and nurturing hidden talents along the way.  

Silvana Lavacca | Executive Director of Legal, Governance and Risks | Riachuelo   

Her career trajectory reached new heights when she joined Grupo Guararapes in 2011, tasked with implementing tax efficiency strategies. Recognized for her contributions, Lavacca eventually assumed the role of corporate head of legal and tax, overseeing legal divisions across various sectors. In 2021, she made history as the first woman-appointed legal and governance director, a testament to her leadership and expertise.  

Today, Lavacca leads a team of over 120 professionals across multiple areas, driving alignment with the company’s values and purpose. Her commitment to continuous learning in different areas and dedication to family underscores her journey of growth and achievement. As she navigates the complexities of being in charge of legal affairs in Guararapes Group, Lavacca remains driven by a sense of responsibility and purpose in her professional endeavors and her cherished moments with family and friends. 

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring III 2024 Edition here.

Published on: May 1, 2024


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