Second Edition

Second Edition

Executives explore sustainable competitive advantage

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Senior professionals with an interest in creating a sustainable competitive advantage for their business attended a free seminar in Amsterdam, organised by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). ‘Creating an S² Competitive Advantage’ addressed making sustainability sustainable, and was the second edition of the RSM Erasmus Business Series, in advance of a new open programme from RSM that will run in 2014.

Participants at the Erasmus Business SeriesProfessor Rob van Tulder, Professor of International Business-Society Management at RSM, led the RSM Erasmus Business Series session attended by 110 executives representing a wide range of organisations, including KPMG, ING, ProRail, PayPal, ORMIT, APG, Ordina, DSM and GE International. Prior to the seminar all participants had filled out a survey about their attitude towards corporate liability, responsibility and sustainability. Results showed that the majority have a proactive attitude towards implementing long-term organisational, personal and societal values by creating strategy for themselves and society.

Managing tipping points

During the thought-provoking seminar, professor Van Tulder explained the uniqueness of S²: “In the past, you could build competitive advantage on incremental skills and competencies. Now, we need new leadership competencies. You need to be able to manage the ‘tipping points’,” he said. A tipping point is usually reached by slow steps in the right direction. The internal and external alignment of stakeholders is one of the most important characteristics of this change process.

Professor Rob van Tulder, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus UniversityVan Tulder, who co-authored the award-nominated book Managing the Transition to a Sustainable Enterprise. Lessons from Frontrunner Companies, explained that thinking in terms of an S² competitive advantage helps to identify the internal and external challenges and tipping points that should be addressed in order to rejuvenate business. It also helps to focus on the kind of transformational leadership skills that professionals might need when developing or sourcing for the next level of competitiveness, he said.

Participants explored decision-making processes, and perceptions to overcome the critical tipping points that delay transitions to sustainable business for some firms. Van Tulder explained how to shape this transition at a corporate level within different business segments, and how an organisation could manage a complex portfolio of collaborative partnerships to reach better common objectives.

Break through the barriers

Participants of the Erasmus Business SeriesAs a first step, Van Tulder challenged participants to address their own attitude towards a long-term competitive advantage and that of their co-workers and employees. The next step is to define and design transition trajectories to break through perceived and real barriers. A successful transition process will eventually lead to long-term leadership benefits, and adds real value to the business and to society.

Van Tulder stressed that sustainability is no longer a strategic option but a necessity for insuring a long-term existence of any organisation. “Acquiring an S² competitive advantage will ultimately involve changing the rules of the game,” he said. “The real strategic challenge for future leaders is how to make their area of responsibility sustainable.”

RSM’s Executive Education department will offer Professor Rob van Tulder’s new two-day open programme ‘Creating an S2 Competitive Advantage’ in 2014. The programme is now open for enrolment. It includes two feedback sessions to teach participants new ways to approach leadership, sustainability, strategy and innovation. It’s one of several new programmes in the latest RSM Executive Education 2014 open programmes catalogue.

About the RSM Erasmus Business Series

The RSM Erasmus Business Series is a thought-provoking, impactful, and interactive series of free seminars covering a range of business topics. Each seminar aims to inspire senior professionals, and develop their understanding of current business issues. The series is organised by the department of Executive Education at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

For more information on this seminar or the speaker, please contact Maja Cerim.