Short-termism in investments wins KPMG RSM Sustainable Thesis Award 2019

A master thesis about overcoming short-termism in investments has won the 2019 KPMG RSM Thesis Award. Its author is master student Paul Ruijs, who graduated in 2018 from the MSc Global Business & Sustainability programme. Paul was presented with the award and €1,000 by Jerwin Tholen, chairman of the thesis award jury and Director Sustainability at KPMG. Runner-up was Annelou Ringers (MSc Supply Chain Management 2018), whose thesis is about socially responsible purchasing in the fast fashion industry. The awards were presented during the annual RSM STAR Sustainability Forum on Friday 10 May, which addressed the question of why so many companies still shy away from major sustainable change. It took place on campus at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) in front of an audience of professionals, academics and students interested in how business can be a force for positive change.



The RSM STAR Sustainability Forum featured keynote speakers, academics and business professionals explaining what needs to happen to increase the pace of the transition to sustainability, even though the transition could be economically attractive for businesses because of technology and consumer demand.

Smashing sustainability clichés

Keynote speakers at the Forum were Marcello Palazzi, global ambassador for the B Corps movement, and RSM’s Prof. Rob van Tulder, author of Business and the Sustainable Development Goals: a framework for effective corporate involvement. During the Forum, a panel of leading professionals discussed smashing sustainability clichés, and the audience of students and the local business community joined breakout sessions facilitated by leaders in sustainable business such as EY, Capgemini, Philips, Radboud MC, Wolkat and Plennid.

The right kind of investors

The thesis of Award-winner Paul Ruijs is titled Overcoming short-termism of investors, a barrier for sustainable development contributions – An explanatory research that studies to what extent companies can curb short-termism in order to foster sustainability. It considers sustainable development initiatives as a form of investment, i.e. strategic decisions involving key investors. It addresses the dynamics between investors and sustainability approaches that trigger companies to exploit their ability to attract the kind of investors that suit their sustainable development agenda.

It was chosen as the winning thesis after a unanimous decision by a jury comprising:

  • Jan Bom Editor in chief of the CSR magazine P+ People Planet Profit
  • Henriёtte Davelaar, Head of Sustainability at PGGM, a non-profit co-operative pension administration organisation
  • Jerwin Tholen, Chairman of the jury, Director Sustainability at KPMG. KPMG has generously awarded a cash prize for this RSM thesis award since 2006.

The jury looked for academic excellence; relevance for managers or entrepreneurs in business; for potential impact on the environmental or on society; and for original and independent thinking using a critical attitude and innovative ideas. The jury said they were impressed by the academic nature of the theses; the students’ extensive literature studies and intellectual methodologies challenged their business perspectives, they said. The theses authors’ ambitions for addressing social and environmental issues also caught the jury’s attention.

Reconsider fast fashion

Runner-up Annelou Ringers graduated in 2018 from the MSc Supply Chain Management programme at RSM. Her thesis, The implementation of socially responsible purchasing in the fast fashion industry is about socially responsible purchasing in the fast fashion industry. She adapted existing models to the context of tier-one ready-made garment purchasing in China and Bangladesh. Current socially responsible purchasing mechanisms appear to merely counter the problems in the fast fashion industry. Her thesis addresses the recent, harrowing developments in Bangladesh. To foster long-term social sustainability, Ringers calls for the entire fast fashion model to be reconsidered. Her innovative thinking points towards blockchain and 3D printing technology to support better business.

Five shortlisted theses

Theses eligible for this Award were the 72 that were related to a sustainable topic out of a total of 375 which achieved a grade of 8.5 or more and were produced by RSM master students between September 2017 and August 2018. A shortlist of five theses was created by a team of six RSM master students, led by Almar Bok, programme assistant for RSM’s Positive Change Initiative and founder of Education in Transition, a student organisation for future-proof education. The shortlisting committee presented the shortlist of five covering the most prominent themes within sustainability, from the circular economy and sustainable investments to socially responsible purchasing.

The five shortlisted theses were as follows (in alphabetical order):

  1. Jaap van Beek (MSc Supply Chain Management 2018) Can traceability be the solution to social and environmental sustainability problems in the cocoa industry?
  2. Theodoor van der Klaauw (MSc Business Information Management 2018) How does partnership composition affect project performance in smart city ecosystem?
  3. Carolin Lanfer (MSc Global Business & Sustainability 2017) Implementation of disruptive circular business models enabling an industry-wide transformation towards a circular economy
  4. Annelou Ringers (MSc Supply Chain Management 2018) The implementation of socially responsible purchasing in the fast fashion industry
  5. Paul Ruijs (MSc Global Business & Sustainability) Overcoming short-termism of investors, a barrier for sustainable development contributions – An explanatory research that studies to what extent companies can curb short-termism in order to foster sustainability

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. 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 can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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