Alumni Awards: Honour sustainability achievements

Meet these two exceptional alumni who have an eye for how and where support is needed in very different environments. The way they offer a helping hand to get start-ups going to improve economy and society was recognised with this year’s RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Story by Dorine Schreiner

Excellence in business and a contribution to society are recognised annually with the RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards. Young and senior alumni who emphasise RSM’s four themes – sustainability, innovation, critical thinking and spirit – are chosen each year from the school’s more than 29,000 alumni globally. This year’s recipients help entrepreneurs start up innovative ventures, with a focus on improving business and society worldwide. They received their awards at the RSM Leadership Summit in October.

Distinguished senior leader

As a technology transfer officer at the European Space Agency (ESA), Niels Eldering (MSc in Management of Technology & Innovation, 2003) supports more than 100 new start-ups annually through ESA’s Business Incubation Centres, which helps entrepreneurs to exploit space-based solutions in more down-to-earth markets. Being nominated for his work – and for his involvement with RSM students through the organising of seminars since 2004 – Niels says he is honoured and excited about winning the award.

‘It’s important to give something back to RSM, and it feels natural to organise things for your alma mater,’ he says, adding that the seminars also function as a valorisation tool, resulting in a number of valuable business plans from students annually. ‘I show Europe’s future leaders today’s space technologies and they develop business ideas around what you can do with it to create economic and societal benefits.’

ESA has a top-class portfolio of technologies that can be applied to different solutions, and companies should invest and innovate in space, says Niels. ‘Entrepreneurs and students have innovative and problem-solving mindsets. It’s fantastic and refreshing to witness how these business students connect rocket science to business and society.’

Niels says giving back is also about receiving. ‘Don’t ask what your university can do for you. Ask what you can do for your university,’ he says, adding that it pays back because staying connected with RSM gives ESA unique access to young and talented future leaders. ‘With all the solutions for business and societal matters that need to be created, everyone can work together to build a better tomorrow.’


Distinguished young leader

Stef van Dongen (MSc in Business Society Management, 2007) works towards an inclusive global economy with Enviu, which creates entrepreneurial ideas and ventures that address social and environmental issues worldwide. ‘There’s a lot to win from an inclusive society,’ says Stef. ‘Everyone, including the millions of people living in marginalised situations, has a talent. Society is missing out on huge potential when excluding people who don’t fulfil requirements that society thinks it needs from them.’

The alumnus says RSM taught him how to be innovative, set up companies, investigate unknown areas, and challenge himself. ‘We explore the new co-ordinates of the economy with the companies we set up. It gives my life meaning to do something I’m passionate about,’ he says.

After deciding which global issue should be addressed, Enviu looks at how to include local and global stakeholders into finding solutions. ‘Then we start making the impossible possible,’ says Stef, adding that what Enviu does should be mainstream. ‘Often we do things that have never been done before and we build partnerships nobody has thought of.’ Stef hopes governments, NGOs and corporations will also discover these new ways of addressing societal problems. ‘Co-creation and entrepreneurship are key in this change. You can’t tackle these issues on your own. That’s why we set up innovative ventures.’

Winning the award feels great, says Stef. ‘It’s a recognition for our work, and I hope it inspires other entrepreneurs too.’ He says his relationship with RSM is important. ‘The school is an important networking partner; a pool of resources and knowledge. With RSM’s help, I can expand the boundaries of innovation and find new ways to do business.’

Stef plans to continue to find solutions for large societal challenges. ‘My dream is to keep developing these “kick-ass companies” and keep social entrepreneurship and innovation alive.’


The nominees

Distinguished Young Leaders

  • Josée van der Hoek (Executive MSc in Corporate Communication, 2010)
    Co-founder and consultant, Between-us
  • Himanshu Kachhwaha (Master in Financial Management, 2009)
    Founder and director, Veggiesaurus
  • Huib Lloyd (MSc in Human Resource Management, 2007)
    Director, Stichting Jarige Job
  • Stef van Dongen (MSc in Business Society Management, 2007)
    Founder and director, Enviu

Distinguished Senior Leaders

  • Edwin Wenink (Doctoraal bedrijfswetenschappen, 1995)
    Manager supply chain, Flora Holland
  • Niels Eldering (MSc in Management of Technology & Innovation, 2003) Technology transfer officer, European Space Agency


RSM Outlook , 2015 Winter RSM Outlook