Violaine Verougstraete serves as the Chemicals Management Director at Eurometaux, the non-ferrous metal association. After pursuing a degree in medicine and developing a keen interest in toxicology, Violaine completed a PhD in public health. She transitioned to the industry with the aim of being at the forefront of efforts to protect human health and the environment. At Eurometaux, she coordinates chemicals management activities, including the development of data, methodologies, tools, advocacy, and communication, both within the sector and with external stakeholders. In addition to her role at Eurometaux, Violaine continues to teach at several universities, upholding her commitment to active learning and knowledge sharing.

Violaine Verougstraete
Chemicals Management Director, Eurometaux

Violaine’s Story: Discovering My Passion for Associations

Improving public health and the protection of our environment requires bringing together very different actors with various types of expertise, to work together on a common vision or at least in the same direction. An international association is, by nature, composed of multiple members, whose agendas and interests can be diverse, as well as their history and cultural background. This is particularly visible when it comes to notions of risk or sustainability.

I would encourage anyone interested in a challenging job, dealing with a multiplicity of objectives and views to join an association as it is a continued learning curve and ensures an interesting job where boredom is kept at bay.

Violaine’s Approach: How to #InspireInclusion through Our Work and Actions

  • By ensuring as much as possible a common base of “knowledge”, on the topic or the objective to discuss but also taking into consideration the people around the table and their respective expertise
  • By creating as far as possible a “safe space” to exchange, including on opposite views and approaches, for all participants -silent or vocal
  • By keeping open communication channels and creating links between people
  • By changing the format of discussions or meetings, by organising social events along our meetings, aiming at revealing different talents
  • By launching the “Metals Academy” which brings together very diverse profiles with their different levels of experience and in a completely distinct setting

I admit that all these possible strategies are easily implementable on a daily basis as this wealth of variety of people, topics and challenges is what makes me passionate about my job.

Violaine’s Perspective: On the Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Associations

An association acts as ambassador of a sector, and hence it is crucial for it to have very good insights in its diversity and to ensure that all its members can exert their voice. Its success is strongly dependent on the buy-in and support of its members.

In advocacy, whilst the messages reaching the outside world are often obtained “by consensus” (in particular, when the interests of the members diverge), the evidence and knowledge behind these messages need to be representative of all the members. This “representativity” must continuously be checked during the preparatory work of the advocacy, including an active screening to ensure that all members had the opportunity to be included and heard in the discussion. Representativity and equity are key conditions for the association’s community to be united in their actions.

An association needs to strive for growth, i.e., for ‘more and better’, supporting its members in their realities but also proposing a direction of travel. An objective, and in particular, a longer-term one, requires members to embark on activities that may be distant from their immediate preoccupations and challenges. This requires members to trust the association and feel that they will remain travel partners over time.
In this complex world, with the difficult mix of short-term emergencies and longer-term uncertainties, an association is often the best placed to create this safe space where ‘everyone has a place at the table’ and to provide platforms to support a community.

Violaine’s Initiatives: Actions and Inspirations for Fellow Association Leaders

Some examples of initiatives:

At scientific level: we have set up several projects in Eurometaux to consolidate the experience with risk assessment from different parts of the world, on a range of diverse materials and have translated this into information accessible to all (e.g., websites), guides (HERAG/MERAG) or user-friendly tools (e.g., MEASE, MeClas and data sources. These websites/tools also include feedback tools to ensure that they remain updated; taking into consideration not only new science, but also newcomers, fresh perspectives, additional understandings.

Considering the overload of emails our companies receive and the complexity of the regulation, we have reflected about different ways of communicating. The organisation of ‘catching up’ information weeks twice a year attracts different participants than those who attend the regular (Taskforce) meetings. We also have a monthly ‘Chemicals Management News’ (number 146 this month) that allows readers to be up to date -in a summarised way- of the main developments of the past month.

Setting up a list of privileged contacts: asking the members of the team to contact all members -outside of the normal meetings- to have a chat on needs and expectations and get closer to their agenda.

The Metals Academy (3rd edition this year) aims at bringing together different profiles to facilitate the integration of newcomers into the sector and providing them with a toolkit of knowledge, which can be useful in their work, but is not necessarily at hand when they join their company, their association.