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SOS-UK announces Dr Hazel Norman as its new Chair of trustees

October 5, 2023

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Hazel Norman as the new Chair of the SOS-UK trustee board. Hazel is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the British Ecological Society (BES), the world’s oldest ecological society. She brings decades of experience from a range of leadership positions in the environmental sector. These include more than 25 years at the helm of the BES, as well as a range of trustee board positions at St Georges Hospital Charity, John Spedan Lewis Foundation and Wildlife and Countryside link, where she chaired the board from 2015-2018.

Before entering the ecological sector, Hazel completed a degree in Biology at Kings College London, followed by a PhD at the University of Manchester on ‘Industrial Carbon Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect’. She has a lifelong passion for the environment, particularly nature and biodiversity. This has been at the core of her educational and professional life.

Hazel’s deep understanding of the environmental crises we face - and how charities can effectively address them - will be invaluable to SOS-UK as we prepare to take on new and bigger challenges over the coming years. She will take over as chair for the November board meeting, serving an initial term of 3 years.

Hazel enjoying some time in nature.

We would like to also take the opportunity to thank and pay tribute to Richard Dunne, who has been a fantastic chair of the SOS-UK trustee board over the last 3 years. Richard was our founding Chair, leading us through our application to the Charity Commission since late 2018 through to certification in June 2019. He has been the official Chair of Trustees since SOS-UK existed as a legal entity in June 2019. He has overseen the establishment of the charity, including the TUPEing of staff from NUS to SOS-UK, the creation of all of our independent processes and systems, the growth of the trustee board from three to ten (with an average age of just 34), the piloting and growth of our use of student staff, the doubling of our income and staff team. He has contributed heavily to our political engagement strategy, including our transformative Teach the Future and MockCOP campaigns. He will be much-missed by all of us at SOS-UK.

We would also like to thank Herringbone Search who provided invaluable support in this recruitment process.

Larissa Kennedy, President of SOS-UK, said: “Richard has been an incredible Chair of the board over the past 4 years and it's sad to see him go. That said, I can't wait to see the fresh knowledge and experience that Hazel will bring to the board. I look forward to working together to make sure that SOS-UK continues supporting students and young people to be at the forefront of climate education and environmental justice across the UK, in solidarity with climate advocates around the world!”

Carole Parkes, SOS-UK Trustee, said: “I am so thrilled that Hazel Norman will be taking up the SOS Chair of Trustees role! Hazel brings a wealth of experience, expertise and personal qualities that will be invaluable for SOS going forward.”

We asked Hazel a few questions to help you get to know her a little better! Read the full interview with our new chair here:

Tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from and what’s your current role outside of SOS-UK?

I grew up in rural Northamptonshire, did my first degree in London, my PhD in Manchester and have been back living in London for the last 25 years.  I am the CEO of the British Ecological Society which is the largest scientific society for ecologists in Europe with a membership of 7,000 in over 120 countries around the world. We support the ecology community at all stages of their careers through our journals, meetings, grants, and education and policy work. The first ecology society to be established anywhere in the world, we have been the champion of ecology for more than a century.

Where does your passion for climate and ecological issues come from?

I’ve been enchanted by the natural world since I was a child.  I grew up in the countryside, mostly agricultural land with wild pockets of nature here and there, and I was always drawn to understanding how it all worked.  My mum wasn’t very impressed having newts in the bath but I loved watching the behaviour of the aquatic animals and bredsticklebacks in aquariums in my bedroom. TV wildlife documentaries were another obsession.  It wasn’t much of a surprise when I decided to do a zoology degree but I ended up with a biology degree because I did too many plant ecology modules, having found plants much more interesting at degree level than during A Level studies.  My PhD looked at carbon sequestration in woodlands as a way of reducing atmospheric CO2 and it was obvious, even in the early nineties, that if we didn’t stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere the consequences would be huge. A love of nature and a desire to protect it have been strong threads running through my whole life.    

What attracted you to SOS-UK, and made you want to become the chair of our trustee board?

SOS-UK is such a dynamic and exciting organisation demanding change, led by and supporting young people – how could I not want to be part of it? I’m lucky enough to have two daughters, one of whom has recently completed a degree and the other has just done her A Levels.  I really wanted to be part of an organisation that empowers people like them to create change and challenge those with power to do the right thing for nature.  

What skills and experience do you hope to bring to the trustee board?

I’ve led the BES in the CEO role for a long time so understand how to get organisations running effectively with a clear strategic vision.  I’ve also worked on several Boards, including St Georges Hospital Charity, the John Spedan Lewis Foundation, Wildlife and Countryside Link (as Chair) and my local allotment Society (as Treasurer and as Chair), so I have a really good understanding of how Boards work and their relationship with the executive.  I hope that I can bring my skills in listening, strategic vision, collaboration and partnership working to the role.

Are there any areas of our work you’re most interested in, or most excited to learn more about?

It’s hard to make choices as so many of the SOS-UK areas of work look brilliant but three that particularly stood out are the Homes Fit for Study programme, the SDG Teach-in and Breaking the Bank campaign.  I have a lot to learn about all the amazing work!

What are your dreams for SOS-UK to achieve over the next3 years?

I’d like to see SOS-UK with a clear strategic vision, a secure, long-term financial base and having even greater impact.  

Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I got my first tattoo this summer.  It’s a tiger and I love it!

Who would be your dream dinner guest, dead or alive?

I hope you don’t mind if I chose 3!  Tracey Emin for transforming how I think about art, David Grohl for giving our family a soundtrack and Charles Darwin for changing everything.

When you’re not working, what do you do to relax and have fun?

I love skiing but London doesn’t give me many opportunities for that so I like spending time cycling, running, increasing biodiversity on my allotment, going to gigs and visiting art galleries.