Sandrine was recognised by GreenBiz as one of the 30 most influential women across the globe driving change in the low carbon economy and promoting green business. She has built from scratch, fundraised and run EU offices, networks and platforms bringing together business leaders, policy makers, academia and NGO’s in the area of sustainability, climate change, and clean energy.

Sandrine is currently the first female Co-President of the Club of Rome (1968) the most distinguished global association of scientists, economists, businessmen/women, thought leaders, high level civil servants and former heads of state share a common concern for the future of humanity and strive to make a difference. She is also the co-founder of the Women Enablers Change Agent Network (WECAN); and the co founder and first Executive Director of the Green Growth Platform bringing together EU Ministers and CEO’s.

She is a respected Board member, senior advisor, facilitator and lecturer at the University of Cambridge and holds several advisory positions within the European Commission including Chair of DG R&I Think Tank ESIR (Economic and Societal Implications of Research and Innovation); Co-Chair, Manufacturing Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, and Member Climate Change Mission Assembly.

Sandrine Dixson-Declève

1. Why are you investing your time & expertise in (an) association(s) and its advancement?

I firmly believe that the only way to solve our many global and European challenges is to firstly, ensure greater diversity across all leadership and second, enhance collaboration so as to optimise stakeholder engagement as agents of positive change . The challenges we face will requite radical new partnerships between associations and within associations.

I have built my career around fostering meaningful partnerships for change from effective PPP’s to cross sectoral and cross governmental alliances and innovative industrial partnerships. I have also worked with industry associations who understand that they must become part of the solution and offer more than minimalist approaches to the challenges before us in particular climate change and sustainability and I find this incredibly fulfilling as these are the companies who understand the complexities of change but also know they must be part of the solution to global and European challenges.

Associations-Networks-Platforms-Commissions, all of which are a collection of individuals, companies, organisations serve a similar purpose: to collectively leverage change. As long as this is done with the intent to progress our socio-political, societal and environmental challenges then we are going in the right direction.

Now if I look at associations in the gender space, and our intention with the establishment of WECAN (The Women Enablers Change Agent Network) our purpose was to add value to other organisations in this space – rather than “compete” which is a traditional male approach we wanted to “complement” and collaborate which is more feminine in approach. Our aim with WECAN was to both create a circle of trust between women leaders in Brussels so as to ensure that we supported each other as change makers but also that we target our joint attention around influencing the EU-debate on gender parity in the EU-institutions and the private sector while addressing the gender proofing growth agenda at the same time. Due to our efforts we were able to collectively influence the EU debate and gender parity outcome in the European Commission and open the eyes of Commission officials that by bringing more women into decision making and the economy we can both foster more creative decision making and ensure greater economic well-being

2. In your experience, what are the 3 success factors for advancing associations?

  1. Ensure enlightened leadership and a dynamic – diverse (male and female parity) Secretariat
  2. Don’t just complain and lobby against policy
  3. Offer solutions and work in partnership with governments to unpack wicked problems

You can see this across the most recent positioning of Eurelectric, CEFIC and European Aluminium for example who under new leadership both at the Secretary General and Chair level have positioned themselves as solution providers and are raising ambition rather than offering a more traditional minimalist approach. They continue to raise the bar on ambition and are working with the European Commission and national governments on key solutions for their sectors to become 21st proof.

3. Has the AM world changed when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

Yes I think the AM world has reflected the growing appreciation for diversity in its staff but I am not sure we have the right balance of women in the top positions yet.

4. What advice would you give the next generation of association leaders who want to make an impact?

My advice to all leaders is be the leader you want to see!. Leadership is a privilege and these days it is unfortunately taken to lightly. We have a moral responsibility as leaders to unpack wicked problems and ensure collaboration as we will not achieve our climate goals unless we both understand the complexity of today’s problems and find ways to bring forward key solutions that have short term impacts and long-term systems change. This is why I firmly believe that bringing more women at all levels of decision making is fundamental.

To date business associations in particular are seen as only reacting and bowing down to the lowest common denominator or incumbents within. Real leadership is ensuring that all association members join a journey and want to positively influence the fabric of European society, innovate and drive greater well being rather than only looking at individual profit motives. As indicated above Certain associations have recently followed this path in particular in the aluminium, chemicals, paper, energy and power sectors just to name a few . Both because of their enlightened Chairs but also due to committed new Secretary Generals and progressive objectives.