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The RSM MSc in Global Business & Sustainability programme is one academic year’s duration. Core courses are compulsory and will be offered during the autumn semester (26 EC). Master electives (18 EC) are offered during the spring semester, of which one elective can be chosen from another MSc programme. During the year, students work on a master thesis project (16 EC).

Please note that certain electives may be very popular. Although we can place most students in the elective(s) of their choice, there are no guaranteed places.


    • The reality check for business leadership is that nine billion people simply cannot live well in this world if companies do not start leading new partnerships to co-create a safe operating space for humanity. In this course we consider how business leaders are taking this challenge seriously. The goal of this module is to broaden participants’ understanding of sustainability, allowing for a holistic recognition of the interconnectivity of issues and their impacts on the future of business. Participants will learn the basics concepts of corporate sustainability and the meaning of ‘true corporate sustainability’ from a holistic and embedded perspective. The module engages with how and why companies form sustainability strategies and considers how an embedded perspective can be achieved through tools such as the planetary boundaries framework.

      The 2017/18 edition of the module will specifically engage with numerous corporate and external thought leaders in sustainability. Participants will be immersed in the contemporary advancements in sustainability leadership such as circular economy, integrated reporting and sustainability oriented innovation. Each year the course engages participants with a ‘Live Business Case’ (2013/14 Eosta; 2014/15 Ricoh; 2015/16 Samsung). This requires participants to create sustainability strategies and present their ideas to managers of the company. Details of this and other course assignments may be found on the canvas learning environment. Students should attend and actively participate in the classes and field visits. Students are expected to engage in class discussions, ask questions of speakers, and demonstrate involvement with group exercises. Class attendance is mandatory for all classes, unless in the case of illness etc.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. S.P. Kennedy.

    • This course focuses on the logic behind the strategies of multinational corporations (MNCs) in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of particular strategies, and the management of international operations. How do, or can, MNCs manage across borders, and what determines their performance? Beyond a focus on profitability, we consider broader performance implications in how MNCs either contain negative reputation effects that stem from their operations or, develop a positive image due to the way they handle the manifold issues appearing in front of them, from handling corrupt regimes and dealing with currency instability, to developing solutions for major issues like poverty, neglected diseases, catastrophes or hunger.

      In short, how can MNCs manage the trade-off between ‘Risk’ and ‘Responsibility’, and by doing so effectively manage highly multifaceted, uncertain strategies? Global Firm Strategies focuses on how MNCs create a sustainable corporate and competitive advantage. It deals with operational challenges of MNCs, such as deciding upon entry strategies, making appropriate country risk analyses, engaging in lobbying relations with governments, implementing cross-cultural management systems, striking partnerships with stakeholders (such as governments and non-governmental organizations), aligning the varied departments within the firm (internal alignment), and outside the firm (external co-alignment) and dealing with cultural and institutional idiosyncrasies.

      Concrete techniques and management tools will be discussed and practiced, such as: codes of conduct analysis, internationalization strategies, issue prioritization techniques, multinational CSR strategies (in-active/pro-active). We stimulate you to start writing solid papers on the basis of instant individual and group research and come up with candid advice for MNCs.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by Prof. dr. R.J.M. van Tulder.

    • The overall objective of this course is to help you assess which career paths will offer the most growth potential and change-flexibility based on general maxims as well as personal preferences. In addition, it will maximize the impact you have when conducting job interviews and other interactions related to your job searches (informational interviews, networking events, etc.).

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by N. Constantinesco.

    • With the global population growing to 9 billion people, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development forecasts that if organizations do not drastically revise their way of doing business, humanity will be consuming the ecological resources of 2.3 earths in 2050. To avert the disaster that would ensue, businesses need to develop in a sustainable fashion, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. This implies an emphasis not only on economic development, but also on social and environmental development.

      Nowadays, the sustainable mindset is frequently embraced by CEOs and employees alike, which greatly facilitates green innovations, initiatives to combat climate change, and corporate social responsibility in general. Yet it is also true that in contemporary business a dog-eat-dog mindset has survived. This mindset, which is anything but sustainable, has brought about various high-profile scandals such as the Enron, Worldcom, and Parmalat debacles, not to mention the global banking crisis. The economic, social, and environmental consequences of such drastic, moral transgressions may be so profound that they potentially nullify any sustainable development. Sustainability and ethics thus go hand in hand, and both present and future business leaders would do well to embody both.

      This course offers a broad, psychological perspective on sustainable, moral behaviour in business. How can such behaviour be encouraged in employees, in CEOs, in organizations as a whole, and in their stakeholders? Conversely, how can unsustainable, immoral behaviour be averted? Such questions will be discussed in the context of, among others, pro-environmental behaviour, social dilemmas, greenwashing, ethical and sustainable leadership, and moral and sustainable development in individuals and organizations.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. M.J.J. Wubben and Leander de Schutter MSc.

    • This final core course deepens your knowledge on how organizations can address the sustainability grand challenges for the 21st century.  You will think intensively about sustainability leadership and critically apply your ideas to a real-world ‘live business case’.  To tackle this case you will first need to think critically about current practice and engage with appropriate theory in areas such as sustainability-oriented innovation, new product development, marketing, and collaboration. The task is then to create a new business strategy on sustainability that is both innovative and tackles the sustainability grand challenge in a way that creates shared value.

      This course is both tough and challenging, requiring you to work intensively under strict time-constraints within small teams to identify and robustly formulate creative solutions to sustainability challenges.  You are also required to optimise your communication skills by presenting to the company in-person within a boardroom setting. 

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. Corinna Frey.

      Please see below for examples from previous years:

      • With companies Boskalis & Van Oord, co-initiators of Ecoshape

        What is it about our way of doing business that is contributing to polluting rivers? What role can businesses play in solving polluted rivers? What responsibilities can businesses take? What opportunities for start-up social enterprises do polluted rivers offer?

        Led by course leader Li An Phoa, students of the MSc Global Business & Sustainability have delved into answering these questions, taking up the challenge to create new business solutions to tackling our world’s polluted rivers.  Alongside traditional-style theoretical lectures of for instance Dr. Steve Kennedy on ‘Sustainability Oriented Innovation’, students engaged with experiential learning journeys, guest lectures and role-play to engage and understand the sustainability grand challenge from a range of perspectives.

        Experiental learning

        Cycling along the Nieuwe Maas, students visited the headquarters of Van Oord and received sessions from managers from the two largest dredging companies: Boskalis and Van Oord: Arjan van der Weck (General Manager Hydronamic at Boskalis),  Sander Dekker (Sustainability Manager at Van Oord), and Erik van Eekelen (Environmental Engineer at Van Oord and Program Manager at Ecoshape with their ‘Building with Nature’ programme).

        From the public sector, John Verkerke, Municipality Rotterdam and Green Director of the Green Parks, guided students through the 300-hectare Kralingse forest.  This experience showed how simple logical solutions can be wise, cost saving, good for the ecosystem, engage people, and be inspired by natural principles.  Social entrepreneurs also inspired students with Stef van Dongen, founder and CEO at Enviu, sharing Enviu’s business development model and Tieme Haddeman, founder of Urban Green explaining how he created green floatable islands that filter water.

        Students learned how actors from the private and public sector may collaborate successfully for sustainability at the Wicked Problem Plaza.  Led by the RSM Partnership Resource Centre students explored how collaboration with different stakeholders may lead to solutions for the polluted river Rhine.  Guest stakeholders including Arjan van der Weck (Boskalis), Florine Gongriep (Min I&E), Wouter Kersten (DeltaTalent), Ad Faase (Alphen aan de Rijn) and Prashanth Kumar (Wetsus) shared their experiences.

        Presentations of solutions to jury

        Putting into practice presentation skills taught by Dorothy Grandia, students presented ideas for solving polluted rivers to a jury comprising of private enterprises, academics and governmental representatives.  Ideas were diverse, creative and detailed in how they may be implemented.  Ideas included a new Water Experience center in Rotterdam, a Rhine-community app creating collective identity and community action, and a new partnership model for cleaning the Pasig River in Manila, Philippines.

        The jury selected ‘Shuddh Raasta’ – offering a new sustainable business model and start-up opportunity to cleaning the Ganges River - as the winning idea from Laurien Adriaanse, Sean Filidis, Matthijs van Huijgevoort, Yann Liasse, and Lukas Muche.  They have presented their idea to Henk Ovink, the special convoy on water affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

      • RSM students design Heineken marketing campaign for 0.0% beer

        How do you promote non-alcoholic beer among young adults? During a 3 week intensive module, students from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) were challenged to put their knowledge into action to design a marketing campaign for 0.0% beer. The project, which included guest lectures, a real-life business case, and boardroom presentations, took place at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam in January 2015.

        During the RSM & Heineken Sustainability Grand Challenges, the students from RSM’s MSc in Global Business & Sustainability programme (GBS) were confronted with Heineken’s challenge of promoting alcohol-free beer to adults between 18 and 25 years old, and had to identify the interplay between business operations, marketing, and consumers in society, and offer solutions with potential scalability.

        In addition to presentations by Heineken’s marketing experts, the students attended a lecture by business consultant Nicolas Constantinesco about developing long-term marketing strategies, followed by a guest lecture by climate journalist Bernice Notenboom about passion, perseverance and personal resilience. The students also participated in a beer tasting, including samples of Amstel Radler 0.0% , Amstel 0.0% , Wieckse 0.0%, and Wieckse 0.0% Radler.

        Brand strategy

        In teams, the master students explored ways to inspire young people to choose a drink from Heineken’s 0.0% brand portfolio: Amstel, Wieckse and Jillz. As part of creating a marketing campaign for the Dutch market, the students had to consider how it would fit into Heineken’s overall brand strategy, and how the opportunity could be disruptive.

        Each team chose one brand and an occasion to promote the beer, and then developed scientifically-based marketing concepts for how to drive brand awareness, brand equity and sales of 0.0% propositions. The students also improved their presentation skills with before presenting their marketing campaign strategy to Heineken’s expert jury. The jury members were Bas Stok, sustainability manager at Heineken Netherlands, as well as Maarten ten Houten, sustainability manager global innovation; Sebastian Urlik, global marketing manager of 0.0% Radler; Laura Trivulzio-Huijgen, global innovation manager at Heineken International; academic director of the GBS programme Steve Kennedy; and RSM’s course co-ordinator Eva Rood.

        The winning team consisted of RSM students Nicolas Lerch, Emma den Ouden, Rexin Singotani, Anne-Lot Struijk, and Inez van der Vet. The jury was impressed by the team’s spot-on marketing campaign that carefully took into consideration the target audience, the scope set by Heineken, and the brand value of Amstel 0.0%. The team’s presentation included an attractive mood board and a short commercial, all prepared within the 11 days.

      • Inaugural RSM Sustainability Grand Challenges

        “RSM's new sustainability boot camp is an excellent way to learn intensively about the problems faced by businesses and society and their grand challenges for the 21st century. Join an elite group of students and top notch faculty. ”

        Gail Whiteman,

        Professor of Sustainability, Management and Climate Change

        RSM’s first Sustainability Boot Camp

        This spring 2014, the Global Business & Sustainability Master’s Programme (MSc in Global Business & Sustainability) hosted a new-style boot camp, to train a new generation of business leaders to think critically about business strategies and develop new sustainable business models for the future. The Sustainability Grand Challenges course was based on the expert teaching and research that sits behind the RSM Department Business-Society Management, with a critical emphasis to sustainability issues to understand the strategies of companies, governments and non-governmental organizations.

        The Speakers

        This year’s speakers at the boot camp included Prof. Gail Whiteman, professor of Business Society Management and holds the Sustainability and Climate Change chair at Rotterdam School of Management;  Prof. Rob van Tulder, professor of International Business-Society Management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM); Dr. Guido Berens, Assistant Professor of Corporate Communication at RSM; Dr. Anniek Mauser, Sustainability Director of Unilever Benelux; and Tom van de Beek, founder of The Tipping Point Foundation. Furthermore, additional faculty members of the MSc Global Business & Sustainability programme (Dr. Steve Kennedy and PhD student Amanda Williams) attended the event as ‘pop-up consultants’ to guide students with the business case.  

        The Business Case

        Anniek Mauser, Sustainability Director of Unilever Benelux,  presented the ‘WaterSpaarders’ case following from the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and one of the biggest sustainability challenges it encompasses: how to create consumer behaviour change to reduce hot water usage. WaterSpaarders is a unique initiative of Unilever, WWF Netherlands and the Missing Chapter Foundation of princess Laurentien, supported by Vitens, Eneco and focuses on children as change agents in families.

        The students worked on the case:

        ‘How to create a consumer behaviour change to reduce warm water usage among 16-25 yr. olds’.

        In groups of five, students were forced to think out of the box and come up with real solutions to the business case. At the end of the boot camp they had to present their findings to the jury members, who were initiator members or supporter members of the WaterSpaarders project.  Some of the fascinating ideas presented were:

        • to create an application which records the individual usage of water of students, linking it to a coupon system (the less water you use in a week, the more discount you get on beers);

        • create a water saving stopwatch at sports club showers, where the shower turns off after 5 minutes

        • creating a merchandize, in this case it was the duck-plug which you plug into your sink, when washing the dishes

        • creating advertisement campaigns with famous Dutch celebrities, who advocate the usage of less water.

        Unilever and RSM

        The RSM Boot Camp was an interesting, refreshing experience, where I hope I have infected some students to become future sustainability leaders, integrate sustainability in their way of thinking, their curricula, their future jobs.

        Dr. Anniek Mauser, Sustainability Director of Unilever Benelux

        Why did Unilever decided to collaborate with the MSc Global Business & Stakeholder Management Programme?

        Anniek Mauser: Unilever acknowledges the need for a better integration of sustainability in curricula of business schools and therefore actively participates with guest lectures and cases in the Programmes of the top universities.

        Why was the Boot Camp important for Unilever?

        Anniek Mauser: The Boot Camp was a successful innovation to submerge last year bachelor students into sustainability, to plant the seeds for further integration in their curricula and master education

        What did Unilever get out of it?

        Anniek Mauser:  The interaction with students is important and always refreshing to learn how they look at the issues, what are natural routes and partners to them to let a sustainability message land with their age group, how do they frame the message in a way that resonates by their peers.  

        Each One Teach One

        Next to the intellectual learning, the boot camp also offered a physical learning experience. The Rotterdam HipHop House customized two workshops for the boot camp participants (break-dance workshop and hiphop workshop) to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones so that they can deepen their own self knowledge and skills. As a result, this translated back to sustainable development in oneself.


        The Sustainable Boot Camp was received extremely well from all the participating students and the faculty members and business associates involved in the event.

    • This module deals with intellectual property (IP). It introduces students to the various forms of IP and then focuses on patents, as acquiring patent protection is the most expensive form of IP protection. A patent is often a substantial investment for start-ups and small companies.
      In this master elective, RSM students work together with technical students from the University of Delft. Their aim is to develop a business plan for a sustainable invention. For many students, this is the first time they have had to consider the IP implications of an actual product or process. This module combines IP theory with practice. It raises awareness of IP issues and is immediately relevant for students regarding the invention they are working on.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. H. Gubby.

    • The managing, governing and consulting of for example grant-making organizations, fundraisers, hospitals, museums, sport associations, action and pressure groups is nowadays considered to be a specialization within the field of management. The skills and knowledge that are needed in this field differ from the skills required in business settings. In this elective, Managing NGOs, the aim is to provide you with an insight into this specialization and to help you build the skills and knowledge needed to understand this important sector.

      During the elective, you will be provided with a theoretical and practical background of the management of philanthropic, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. A number of guest lectures have been organized, during which organizations provide an insight into the management of their NPO or NGO. During these lectures, specific themes within management of philanthropic organizations are highlighted and investigated.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by prof. L. Meijs and P. van Overbeeke.

    • There is fierce debate over the role of markets and the moral limits to the pursuit of profit by modern corporate enterprise. Is there a corporate responsibility beyond making money? Is the ‘free market’ fair? Are there goods which we should not try to provide via the market such as the adoption of children, human organs, or sexual services? What are these goods, and what is wrong with buying and selling them?

      These are the questions addressed in this course which starts from a series of online lectures on political theories of justice, from Aristotle to John Rawls given by Harvard professor of government Michael Sandel. In our class meetings in Rotterdam we will refine this framework and apply it to major questions of markets and justice.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. B.H.E. Wempe.

    • Corporate leaders are nowadays searching for new and more innovative value propositions that can be linked to more future looking and crisis resilient business models. In the literature this tendency is also referred to as ‘shared value creation’, ‘social innovation’ or efforts of ‘sustainable leadership’. This course addresses these dimensions from a theoretical as well as practical point of few. One way of considering the question whether business models are actually sustainable is the extent to which they address so called ‘wicked problems’ in society. Wicked problems are those problems that are not only difficult to solve, but even difficult to define. New business models in many sectors are developing that are trying to link up the value proposition of the company to the value gaps of society. Many large firms are doing this, next to the obvious smaller players (social enterprises). We see these new business models appear in such sectors as: care, health, international food, water provision, electricity and the like. How to understand and value these developments? This course also links up with a big NWO-funded programme in the Netherlands in which a number of universities and stakeholders collaborate to bring this theme further. The course thus will also bring you into touch with practitioners and researchers from many different areas. We consider this course also an excellent way of preparing your thesis as follow up on most of the themes of the first semester, but now applied to specific issues of sustainability for which companies have to come up with innovative business models.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by prof. dr. Rob van Tulder.

    • Many practitioners and academics alike argue that complex societal challenges, including sustainable development, require collaborative processes between different sectors of society (state, market, and civil society). Cross-sector partnerships are therefore also an important part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda and even have their own goal: the 17th SDG is to ‘strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’. Despite all the positive rhetoric on cross-sector partnerships, critical voices point to their limited success in addressing the systemic causes underlying the severe sustainability challenges of our times.

      In this course, participants are therefore encouraged to critically analyze the concept of cross-sector partnerships, their role in sustainable development and their possible impact and frailties. As such, the course builds specifically on the core courses Sustainability Grand Challenges and Global Business Strategies, where collaboration for sustainability is introduced. This course, however, focuses on cross-sector partnerships not necessarily from a business perspective, but rather form a multi-actor perspective. In the course, participants are stimulated to critically look at the drivers of cross-sector partnerships, explore different types of cross-sector partnerships and the process of navigating these, carefully assess the interlinkages between partnerships and sustainable development, and view partnerships as new forms of governance and explore issues of legitimacy and democracy. An important element of this course is the link between theoretical concepts and their practical relevance and case studies therefore play an important role. This course is developed and taught by staff of the Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC), a specialist research centre at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The PrC connects scientifically sound research and practitioner experience of cross-sector partnerships to aid sustainable and inclusive development.

      Review the course guide for more information.

      Taught by dr. A.M. Schouten.

    • Climate change is one of today’s most pressing issues, receiving international attention from political leaders, corporations, the media, advocacy groups, and the general public. In the future, it is likely to become even more pressing as the effects of climate change intensify resource competition, natural disasters, disease vectors, water and food scarcity, and refugee migration.

      According to Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, the impact of climate change is likely to change the international business environment dramatically. However, the business relevance of climate change is insufficiently understood by future decision makers in international management and society.

      We believe that tomorrow’s business leaders should be educated on the key elements of climate change – the science, the evolving policy, and role of business. They can become an essential part of the solution, but only if equipped with a sound understanding of the challenges at hand and the processes by which new policies are constructed.

      The Climate Change Strategy course and its Model United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) form an innovative educational approach to closing this knowledge gap. Our goal is to broaden students' understanding of climate change, climate policy, and their impacts on the future of business.

      The course modules deal with the core issues of climate change and include a wide range of effective didactic tools and exercises. Students are given a deeper understanding of the background and consequences of climate change for business, and of corporate responses to it. Special emphasis is laid on international and national regulatory frameworks, and on emerging resource challenges and market opportunities. Furthermore the course will provide students with an opportunity to develop a broad set of personal skills such as negotiation, forming strategy, research, public speaking and debating.

      The 2018 edition of the course will be simultaneously offered at eight leading CEMS universities and culminates in a two-day UNFCCC simulation event at one of the business schools (TBC – host will not be RSM). Students will be using the recent Paris Agreement created at COP21 and be simulating the upcoming COP23 to be held in Asia. Negotiations will seek to enhance the current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of countries and work out details of how the new mechanisms and funds will function. The big challenge is how to improve the current commitments to be in line with the universally agreed target of limiting global temperature rise to ‘well-below 2 degrees’.

      Students will negotiate on issues such as mitigation of greenhouse gases (new voluntary targets, financing and compliance), adaptation to climate change (financing, climate change refugees, technology transfer), and market mechanisms (sustainable development mechanism, REDD+, aviation and shipping).

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. S.P. Kennedy.

      • Experiential learning at its best: International master students showcase stunning negotiation skills at the simulated Model UNFCCC  

        Those with concerns over the shortcomings of last year's UN climate change agreement can rest assured: the world's countries can agree on tighter measures to keep global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – at least if the outstanding negotiation skills displayed by international master's students, including those from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) at the Model UNFCCC are anything to go by.  

        The Model UNFCCC was held in May at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the annual meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP). The simulation Model UNFCCC was attended by around 120 master students including RSM’s MSc International Management/CEMS students as part of the contingent from eight universities in the CEMS partnership, plus students from RSM's MSc Global Business & Sustainability. Taking part in the conference concluded the CEMS Climate Change Strategy course for these students. The conference began on Wednesday evening with a negotiators’ dinner but before this most delegates had already met in their coalition blocks to discuss their negotiation strategies for the formal negotiations that took place on Thursday and Friday.  

        Students were assigned roles as different UN nations, civil society and industry groups as they negotiated climate change targets in a simulation of COP22, which will be held this November. Two students from RSM were voted best negotiators at the event – the fourth year in a row RSM students have received the coveted award.  

        The term 'role-play' hardly does this event justice. From the true-to-life adherence to international negotiation protocol to the passionate representations of their delegated nations and outstanding negotiation skills – this was experiential learning at its best. Indeed, if ever there were an example of the exceptional quality of both the CEMS programme and its students, it is this event. And this year we got an inside-look as the action unfolded.  

        Inside the Model UNFCCC  

        It is half hour before official negotiations begin on the last day of deliberations. Already the conference room is filled with delegates. Animated discussions are taking place: delegates are revising tactics, sharing information on the latest alliances that have formed. 'Media representatives' are busy typing blogs, ready to update the room on the outcomes of meetings held late the previous night.  

        Welcome to the Model UNFCCC, the experiential learning culmination of a course designed to educate CEMS master students on climate change science and policy, as well as develop their skills in negotiation, debating and strategy. Participating this year are 30 students from RSM and 82 students from RSM's seven CEMS partner institutes: Corvinus University in Budapest; University of Cologne in Germany; University of St. Gallen in Switzerland; ESADE Business School Barcelona in Spain; Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi Milan, in Italy; and Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria.  

        Representing interests

        Students have been preparing for this event all semester. The event is a negotiation exercise emulating COP22, during which they must act as delegates establishing new targets for reaching the goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by the second half of this century. Each student has been assigned a country, organisation or industry (or role as a facilitating Chair) and must represent its interests.  

        In the lead up to the event, background papers have been submitted detailing their nation, industry, or NGO's current climate policy, and critically an analysis of the capability to both further mitigate greenhouse gases and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Positioning papers have been submitted responding to the meeting's agenda items (“as stipulated by the honourable chairs of COP22”) based on predictions of negotiation strategies that will be taken at the real COP22. Students have also submitted a “secret positioning paper” that has been circulated within their team of delegates, detailing the tactics they will use and the issues they will argue for and against.   

        The moment the two-day event begins, delegates begin posting propaganda on the event's social media site: statistics on the impact of the meat industry on CO2 emissions for instance, or the role of the aviation industry in supporting the global economy. Fossil fuel representatives have already taken the opportunity during a city tour to inform fellow delegates of the importance their industry plays in the global economy. And as the doors open for the official start of the event, activists from the environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) stage a flashmob blocking the entrance to the plenary room.  

        The goal of all this, explains RSM's CEMS course director Dr Steve Kennedy is for “students to gain an understanding of the negotiation process as it happens in real life; to develop advanced knowledge of how to formulate a negotiation strategy and to apply it in an international negotiations settings.” Advanced indeed. As the event unfolds an unwitting observer might be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a genuine international negotiation.  

        The bulk of negotiations will take place during three separate plenary sessions held simultaneously, beginning at 09:30. While the sessions take place, a stream of updates on the event's social media page will keep delegates informed of developments in other sessions; 'media' will publish official updates on the event website, and coalitions will be in contact via instant chat. The three topics up for agreement: Market Mechanisms, Mitigation and Adaptation.  

        Negotiations in the Mitigation Plenary Session  

        The plenary session on Mitigation proved the most adversarial of the three sessions yesterday and the slowest to make progress. While a draft resolution has made that must now be voted on, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and India were stalling discussions. Delegates from Saudi Arabia in particular were blocking heavily as part of their tactic to avoid increasing their commitments.  

        Is all this acrimony taken seriously on the part of the delegates, or understood as just part of the role-playing? “It is part of the role playing but it is also taken very seriously,” explains Steve. “Sometimes we need to check in if a student is taking it personally as it can be hard to know where the boundary is.”  

        Likewise for an observer. In the mitigation session today, the Chair welcomes its “distinguished delegates” and urges them to reach a consensus on several issues:
        1) global average temperature increase;
        2) country specific percentage reductions by 2030;
        3) the peaking of global greenhouse gas emissions;
        4) finance in relation to the Fund 2020+; and
        5) compliance.  

        In an uncanny imitation of real life, a dispute as to what issues should be discussed immediately ensues: there seems to be an overlap with the adaptation working group on financing, and discussions are stalled for half an hour.  

        There is no impression of play-acting here. The Chairs manage discussions following protocol down to the letter. Each delegate is given their turn on the floor, introducing their points with: “Honourable chairs, distinguished delegates” and articulating their case clearly and concisely. Every point is astonishingly on the mark. The only three academic staff present sit inconspicuously in the back row; rarely intervening.

        Each delegate's strategic position becomes increasingly clear as negotiations unfold. Among the most vocal are those from Saudi Arabia and the Small Island nations – who take polarised positions – as well as the ENGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF, who use banner waving and other emotive tactics. Saudi Arabia, for instance, argues adamantly against any compliance measures, claiming that punitive actions such as stopping funding will ensure countries fail to meet any targets at all and that sanctions will give an incentive for countries to deliberately set low targets for themselves. The Island States, for whom rising sea levels mean certain extinction, push for moving the discussion onto emissions, becoming increasingly fraught as Saudi Arabia and other nations engage in circular arguments on the technicalities around compliance.  

        Meanwhile, a press release has been published on the social media site: the ENGOs and Industry Representatives formed an alliance last night proposing a taxation on meat production, the proceeds from which could be used to fund all afforestation and anti-deforestation efforts. Argentina is quick to respond online with a vigorous rebuke: “Asking for a tax on meat production will drastically increase world hunger … oil and gas simply want to target another industry to remain safe during the panel discussion.”  

        After lunch, another announcement is made: the Indian delegate has agreed to enter a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) partnership with the US in order to reach the ambitious goal of an emissions peak in 2030. India had been blocking negotiations with Saudi Arabia, but now looks set to support a new landmark agreement for the Rotterdam COP22.  

        Back in Mitigation, voting begins, with each point ratified with a strike of the gavel by the Chair. Voting progresses smoothly until the Chair reaches the points on sanctions, with the delegate of Saudi Arabia refusing to endorse any sanctions and Argentina accusing the delegate of “hijacking negotiations”. The Chair finally diffused tensions by opting for a majority vote.  

        Another deadlock is met when the discussion returns to the temperature goal, with both Saudi Arabia and Russia refusing to agree on the 1.5°C goal. The Russian delegate causes an outburst of derisive laughter when she says they will vote for 1.5°C if the EU and the US agree to drop trade sanctions against them. But a short caucus causes a surprise turnaround: the EU and US agrees to discuss dropping international sanctions against Russia if Russia concurs on the 1.5°C target.  

        Saudi Arabia is now the only country opposing the 1.5°C goal, continuing to argue that it would lead to a drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage and that Saudi Arabia would have to be compensated accordingly. The delegate threatens to not ratify the final agreement if the 1.5°C goal remains. Urgent calls are made for Saudi Arabia to endorse the proposition with much rapping on the tables – leading to a dramatic climax when Saudi Arabia walks out of the room. This is met with a standing ovation from the ENGO representative, and the Chair agrees to endorse the point on a majority basis, without Saudi Arabia's vote.  

        Hard to find common ground

        After the meeting, Simon Reuch from the University of Cologne summed up the experience: “It's changed my perspective on the Paris agreement. Now I can see how hard it is to find common ground and why so many compromises end up happening.” 

        Final Voting: Rotterdam Agreement Passed

        Negotiations have been going on intensely since 08:30, but there is no sign of weariness among the delegates when they convene for final voting on the Rotterdam COP22 Protocol at 14:00. Throughout the vote, discussions persevere as intensely as ever, with demonstrations by the ENGOs who hold up banners and rap on the tables.   Despite this, all proposals on Market Mechanism and Adaptation are approved by consensus and, after lengthy discussions that cause the session to run into overtime, those on Mitigation. Most importantly, the parties reach a consensus on both a global emissions peak in 2025, and on the 1.5°C target, despite Saudi Arabia not ratifying the agreement – an option that can be exercised by the president when only one party is not in agreement. The COP22 Rotterdam Protocol is ratified – and all delegates raise their flag.   The event’s 'best negotiators' are then announced as voted by the delegates: Yann Liasse and Matthijs van Huijgevoort, the two working group chairs from Market Mechanisms, from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.  

        How did students find the event?  

        So what did students learn from this foray into international negotiation? Professor Rolf Wüstenhagen from St Gallen leads the debriefing that concludes the event. The delegate for China says, “This was a tremendous task: you really needed to balance what was good for your country with what was good for other countries, so it was about balancing domestic and international needs, short-term and long-term needs. I was surprised at how realistic it became.”  

        Toothless tiger?

        One of the lobbyists says he was shocked at how easy it was to get countries to make concessions. Others agreed, saying that, in order to reach a consensus agreement, so many pieces had to be taken out that you ended with something completely different. Was the agreement in the end just a toothless tiger?  

        “Sometimes it looks good but there's nothing behind it,” says one delegate, “and it's the same with a lot of official documents.”  

        Those with the least interest in committing for instance, were in the stronger position, says the delegate from the Philippines. “At the extreme ends, the incentive to not co-operate was very strong, so those most committed ended up being the most willing to compromise.”

        The US delegate is surprised at the difference in bargaining power between countries: “To see the bargaining power that certain countries have over others has really surprised me. When the US said it could not ratify one part of the agreement it was immediately taken off. Their bargaining chip is higher, it's as simple as that. I knew this in theory but when you see it in reality, it is incredibly educational.”  

        Saudi Arabia is thanked for creating such a realistic dynamic. But how did Saudi Arabia feel about the agreement going ahead without her vote? The delegate says, “Perception was not a consideration. We needed to act on Saudi's policy and it was difficult to find allies because we had differences on why we wanted to block different initiatives. It was exhausting though, no one agreed with me on anything. In reality Saudi Arabia would not participate without any allies, so I think it was unrealistic that they would have moved on without our vote.”  

        One of the ENGO representatives points out that there might be a better way of thinking about these changes in the future: “Everyone equates reducing CO2 with reducing wealth, but if there were an alignment between wealth creation and CO2 reduction things would move faster.”  

        The event wrapped up with a speech by Professor Rafael Sardà from Esade: “This is the grim reality. We need to decouple wealth from environmental impact, or we are going to go into the great collapse. You need to act. If you want to become a good manager for this century you need to choose: the great decoupling, or the great collapse? It's in your hands.”

    • Do you want to learn how the Cradle to Cradle & Circular Economy approach can help you be more successful? Would you prefer to make a great business out of contributing to society and the environment, rather than just postponing the damage a company has on the environment or on people? Then you are welcome to step into the Triple Top Line paradigm; the core of our theories and practice. You are happily invited to challenge us, our guests and your fellow students with a daring proposal for your individual assignment, fiery debates in the (guest) lectures and bold ideas during the exercises.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by D.M.P.E. den Held.

    • In the spirit of Muhammad Yunus, this course makes you explore the kind of world you can create as a social entrepreneur. We will motivate and inform you about how social entrepreneurs leverage the power of business solutions to overcome social and ecological challenges. Through various teaching cases we will discuss how social entrepreneurship could be defined, how hybrid organizations strike a delicate balance between social and economic objectives, and how social entrepreneurship unleashes the promise of business for social impact. Because this course is not limited to theory, you will also get to develop a mind-breaking solution to a social problem yourself as part of a real world assignment for a renowned social enterprise.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      New instructor to be appointed.

    • Organisations are increasingly expected to communicate about the degree to which their operations and other activities are sustainable, in the sense of creating value for society. Communicating about sustainability involves a specialized area of activity that involves CSR-related communication and integrated reporting as well as community engagement. The overall aim of these activities for an organization is to signal and demonstrate its commitment to social and environmental issues and to build strong and lasting relationships with the local and global communities in which it resides and operates. However, in doing so, organizations often encounter obstacles, such as:

      • an inherent scepticism toward large corporations, potentially leading to accusations of ‘greenwashing’
      • action groups using well-known organizations who portray themselves as ‘good citizens’ as easy targets for campaigns to highlight social issues (think of Nike and child labour)
      • sustainability communication getting ‘drowned out’ in a sea of other information
      • perceived trade-offs among stakeholder interests (e.g. an organization’s actions making customers more satisfied but employees less satisfied, or vice versa)    

      How should companies deal with obstacles like these? The course explores the concepts of corporate citizenship, CSR and community relations, and details the nature and effectiveness of various communication strategies and tactics, ranging from integrated reports and stakeholder dialogue platforms to partnerships that address pressing community issues.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. Salla Laasonen

    • To be announced

      Taught by dr. L. Roza.

    • Today’s Grand Challenges require innovative forms of organizing, but what are they and how do they work? This elective is organized in four thematic blocks. In the first block, we will discuss the conceptual foundations that may inspire such novel or innovative forms of organizing, followed by a second and third block to discuss practical examples and cases, such as the sharing economy, non-market based approaches or the role of social movements in addressing grand challenges. The third block focus in particular on digital innovation, such as crowdsourcing for climate change, or blockchain in humanitarian crises. In the last lecture, we will critically reflect on the potentially unintended or problematic consequences of such novel forms of organizing. 

      Taught by dr C Frey-Heger

    • GBS students have the opportunity to combine the writing of their thesis with an internship with a company (minimum of 168 hours) and replacing an elective course.  Any elective block may be selected.
      The internship should be solely related to the thesis research and the selection of the internship should be in consultation with the thesis coach.  The thesis coach must approve of the selection and to completing the evaluation of the company-based project.
      The company-based project should seek to contribute to the knowledge of a practitioner. The practitioner needs the developed knowledge to act. 

      View the course guide for more information.

      Taught by prof. L. Meijs and P. van Overbeeke.

    • This course will provide students with an understanding on the basics of qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as the skills to design, conduct and analyze a research study. The overall aim of the course is to provide students with insights and skills to make informed choices regarding the research design to be used for their MSc thesis.

      The course will consist of two parts, one devoted to qualitative methods and one devoted to quantitative methods. The following topics will be discussed in the two parts.

      Qualitative methods

      In the first class of the part of this course devoted to qualitative methods, we will start with a brief introduction on the nature of qualitative research, including philosophical assumptions, types of research objectives, and types of research design.

      The second, third, and fourth classes explore the three predominant sources of qualitative data (interviews, observation, and documents) and methods particularly suited to their analyses. The fifth and final class will cover interpreting and reporting. In addition, in each class we will discuss analytic techniques (or skills) involved in data collection or analysis.

      Quantitative methods

      In the first class, we will start with a brief introduction on the nature of quantitative research. We will then discuss two commonly used data collection methods that do not involve respondents: content analysis and the use of secondary data. The second class will focus on two other commonly used methods that do involve respondents: surveys and experiments.

      The third and fourth classes will focus on the testing of hypotheses through statistical analysis. In the third class, we will start with a brief recapitulation of the basic of statistical hypotheses testing. Then we discuss two commonly used techniques (which, as we will see, are actually variations of the same technique): multiple regression and analysis of variance (ANOVA). In the final class, we discuss some techniques that are not used to test hypotheses per se, but are vital in order to ensure the reliability of one’s measurement: reliability analysis and factor analysis. In addition, we will practice the use of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) for some of the techniques that we discussed.

    • In order to start the Master Thesis Track, students need to pass their Research Proposal. From January onwards the Research Proposal and Thesis Track officially starts.

      Students will have time until mid-March to hand in their Research Proposals to their coaches and co-readers, and only if they receive a pass for it, they can officially start writing their Master Thesis.


Note regarding taking courses if you are not an RSM master student: RSM does not offer the possibility for non-RSM students (master or otherwise) to take RSM MSc courses outside of official exchange partnerships or other inter-faculty agreements. If you are interested in learning more about corporate social responsibility, sustainability, or business ethics, please refer to our Open Programmes section.