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Boeing nominates first Europe-based board member

FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is seen on the office building in Chicago

By Valerie Insinna and Tim Hepher

WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) -Boeing Co has nominated the head of a Paris-headquartered utility company to become a new member of its board of directors, the first to be based in Europe, the company said on Thursday.

Boeing shareholders will vote on the nomination of Sabrina Soussan, chief executive of water and waste management company Suez SA, at its annual meeting on April 18.

If elected, she will become the first board member based outside the United States and the eighth independent director to join the board since April 2019.

Soussan, who has German and French nationality, would sit on the board’s audit and finance committees, Boeing said.

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Boeing’s board of directors has weathered several high-profile departures in the wake of the 737 MAX crisis, including those of U.S. Ambassadors Caroline Kennedy and Nikki Haley in January 2021 and March 2020, respectively.

As head of Suez, Soussan runs an emblematic French company that built the Suez Canal and went on to manage much of the country's water supply.

She became CEO of Suez in July 2022, about a year after the company was swallowed by rival Veolia following a rare and much-publicized hostile takeover bid in her native city of Paris.Boeing Chair Larry Kellner praised Sousson's "extensive engineering and senior leadership experience" in areas such as manufacturing, safety and sustainability.

Picking a European utility boss with a background in ground transportation and building technologies, having started at carmaker Renault, is expected to help Boeing shape its response to pressure to decarbonize, led by European regulators. The appointment comes weeks after Soussan set out a set of sustainability goals including lowering Suez's emissions from water activities by 39% by 2030.

Suez has also said it is working with Boeing's European rival Airbus and others to set up an ecosystem for Sustainable Aviation Fuel in France. Soussan may also bring an alternative perspective to topics like autonomy, which Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun identified earlier this year as a key technology for the future, telling Bloomberg TV that it would "come to all of the airplanes eventually." In 2018, as head of train maker Siemens Mobility, Soussan wrote on LinkedIn that technology would support humans in making transportation safer and more secure, adding: "But please note: I did not say REPLACE humans but SUPPORT humans".

(Reporting by Valerie Insinna and Tim Hepher; Editing by Jan Harvey and Marguerita Choy)