Broadening my horizon

After 15 years as their Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer, Jean-Louis Chaus­sade became Chair­man of Suez in 2019. In 2016, he was co-opt­ed by the UTC’s Aca­d­e­m­ic Board of Direc­tors and appoint­ed Pres­i­dent. His man­date was renewed in Decem­ber 2021 for a peri­od of 4 years.

With a father who was a Gov­ern­ment Pre­fect, he nat­u­ral­ly moved hous­es around a lot dur­ing his child­hood. First it was Châlon­ssur- Marne where he was born, then Algiers where his father was appoint­ed Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of Alge­ria, Mont­pel­li­er and final­ly Rouen. Raised by the Jesuits in the town of Sar­lat (Dor­dogne), the coun­try from which his fam­i­ly came, Chaus­sade’s father want­ed the same type of edu­ca­tion for his sona. His par­ents there­fore opt­ed for the pri­vate La Prov­i­dence Lycée in Amiens. A point in com­mon with the E Macron, Pres­i­dent of the French Republic. 

After sev­en years at board­ing school and two years of prepara­to­ry class­es, Jean-Louis Chaus­sade entered the École supérieure de travaux publics (ESTP) in Paris. “In 1976, my last year of engi­neer­ing stud­ies, I want­ed to broad­en my hori­zon by prepar­ing a mas­ter’s degree in eco­nom­ics at the Sor­bonne,” he explains. From then on, his hori­zons nev­er ceased to expand. After his mil­i­tary ser­vice, he was hired in 1978 by Degré­mont, a com­pa­ny spe­cialised in water treat­ment, which lat­er became a sub­sidiary of the Suez Group and saw him as expa­tri­ate to Jamaica for a year. Upon return­ing to France, he decid­ed to study at “Sci­ences Po”, grad­u­at­ing in 1981. 

It’s about mak­ing sure that the board works accord­ing to the rules; that all the board­’s stake­hold­ers lis­ten to and under­stand each oth­er and to involve the whole board in the UTC’s strate­gic think­ing about its partners.
Jean-Louis Chaus­sade

From that pointy on, his career real­ly took off. He became suc­ces­sive­ly project engi­neer and man­ag­er of the Group’s inter­na­tion­al sub­sidiaries, and once again sought and found more new career paths. “Fol­low­ing an ETA fire­bomb explo­sion that destroyed every­thing — no more plans, no more account­ing, etc. — in our sub­sidiary in Bil­bao, he decid­ed to take the plunge. — I was called in to restore some degree of order and get the sit­u­a­tion back on a more sta­ble foot­ing,” he explains. Mis­sion accom­plished, Jean-Louis Chaus­sade set off again for new hori­zons and became, in a way, a “Mr. Recov­ery” for com­pa­nies that were going down­hill. “After Bil­bao returned to nor­mal, I was called to Barcelona to sal­vage Dumez Copisa, sub­sidiary of the Dumez group in Barcelona, which had just merged with Lyon­naise des Eaux,” he says. “In 1997, we head­ed for South Amer­i­ca. First it was Argenti­na, where the group had won the water dis­tri­b­u­tion and san­i­ta­tion con­tract in Buenos Aires, to which the con­ces­sions in Cor­do­ba and San­ta Fé had just been added. But lit­tle by lit­tle, the scope of my respon­si­bil­i­ties was extend­ed to oth­er South Amer­i­can coun­tries such as Bolivia and Chile,’ he points out. 

Return­ing to France, in 2004 he became man­ag­ing direc­tor of Suez, upgrad­ing this group into a com­pa­ny list­ed on the CAC 40 (top 40 on the Paris Exchange) in Sep­tem­ber 2008 before final­ly being appoint­ed their chair­man in 2019. 

What is his vision of his role as Chair­man of the Board? “It is to ensure that the Board func­tions accord­ing to the rules; that all the stake­hold­ers of the Board lis­ten to and under­stand each oth­er and to involve the whole Board in the strate­gic reflec­tion of UTC in regard to its part­ners – the Hauts-de-France region­al author­i­ties, the oth­er French Tech­nol­o­gy inten­sive Uni­ver­si­ties (UTBM and UTT), the Sor­bonne Uni­ver­si­ty Clus­ter, etc. -, its inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion, the inte­gra­tion of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment or AI and big data in the cur­ric­u­la”. In 2016, Jean-Louis Chaus­sade was pro­mot­ed to the rank of Offi­cer of the French Legion of Honour. 

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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