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Students create sustainable business models with Rabobank

Almost 20 students from various master and bachelor programmes at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), Erasmus School of Economics and Delft University of Technology worked with Rabobank to find sustainable shared value solutions for organisations such as Thermae 2000, Bravis Hospital and Van Uden. The seven-week tailor-made course combined education, practice and competition, and challenged student teams to think about how companies can improve their value creation and social, ecological and economical impact. The project concluded with team presentations.



The Rabobank Sustainability Case was organised by RSM and Dutch multinational banking and financial services company Rabobank to create awareness for and co-operation between business, leadership and universities to create shared value, a way of doing business which creates value for business and society.

Interlinking finance, knowledge and networks

The 18 carefully selected students study in various bachelor, master and MBA programmes at RSM (14), Erasmus School of Economics (2) and Delft University of Technology (2) represented 10 nationalities; Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, Georgian, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Latvian, and Slovenian. In teams, they found solutions for six organisations that Rabobank works with: Bravis Hospital, Waterweg Wonen, Van Uden, Inashco, Natural Habitats and Thermae 2000.

“By interlinking financial services, knowledge and relevant networks with our customers, and connecting our clients with RSM students, we were able to generate a lot of new ideas for new sustainable business models,” said Rabobank’s Greg Thorburn, who added that the bank’s social contribution consists of accelerating efforts to strengthen the vitality of communities.

Creating shared value

The project’s sessions took place at Rabobank’s Rotterdam office, RSM’s campus, and the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship’s campus. Students worked with their teams, creating shared value researcher Drs. Muriel Arts from RSM’s Department of Business-Society Management, relationship managers and clients on assignments such as analysing the customer’s current situation, and formulating what changes and impact will be created after their shared value plan is executed.

Finally, the student teams presented their ideas in front of a jury, the other teams, all the relationship managers, and representatives of the boards of the customers. The jury members were Greg Thorburn, deputy director of corporate banking at Rabobank Zuidwest; Alain Cracau, head sustainable banking at Rabobank; Guido Broek, managing consultant business solution at Milgro; and Eva Rood, chairman of Erasmus Sustainability Hub and co-director of RSM’s Centre for Eco-transformation.

“A total shift of mindset”

The jury selected the team of students Jekaterina Kuznecova, Borislava Doleva, Marissa Oude Weernink and Yani Scheuer as the winning team. They tackled the sustainability case for Bravis Hospital, which has two main hospitals and three medical centres in Dutch province Noord-Brabant.

“The vision that the team proposed is very fresh and inspiring. It is a total shift of mindset: sustainability in healthcare is not only about how ‘green’ our buildings are,” said a representative from Bravis Hospital.

Fist-hand sustainability experience

The team discovered early on that Bravis is paying more attention to its core business than to sustainability. To improve its sustainability, the hospital should create a new purpose, said the team, shifting from ‘healthcare’ to ‘care for health’. In the long run, the company should switch from curing people to preventing people to get sick. It should not be a place that people only need for their health problems or emergencies, but also a place where people like going to take care of themselves to prevent health problems. A key insight is that 50 to 60 per cent of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems can be prevented.

Students from Team Bravis said the project was “a great learning process with a lot of practical first-hand experience.” The students received a three-day traineeship with the sustainability and corporate clients department of Rabobank.

Sustainable business models for companies

“The students came up with an impressive and visionary plan to shift from ‘health care’ to ‘care for health’ for their client,” said Eva Rood. “They did a great job of envisioning their client’s organisation 20 years from now, and had a convincing and creative presentation.”

The Erasmus Sustainability Hub supported this newly created Sustainability Business Challenge “because we see enormous potential in working with students on real-life cases that deal with tomorrow’s challenges,” said chairman Eva Rood. “This extra course has given talented students the opportunity to gain experience, stretch their boundaries, learn about sustainable business models and actual struggles, and has pushed them to be creative yet realistic. They have gained valuable insights and expertise, as has the company they consulted for.”

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s leading business schools, and ranked among the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in Chengdu, China, and Taipei, Taiwan. www.rsm.nl

For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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Bachelor / Bedrijfskunde , Bachelor / IBA , Business-Society Management , Companies , Executive education , Faculty & Research , Homepage , International , Newsroom , Master , MBA