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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.


    • Our world is facing severe global social and environmental challenges. Human population is growing, while the resource base it relies on for wellbeing continues to decline. We have surpassed the ecological thresholds of some of the planetary boundaries that govern a safe space for humanity, while others are being encroached with short windows of opportunity for solutions. Basic needs of many of the world’s people remain unmet, while inequality has grown to the extent that the world’s richest 62 people are worth more than the poorest 50% of the world’s global population. 

      Sustainability has now long been a boardroom agenda, yet our ecological systems continue to degrade and many social issues remain unresolved. The reality check for business leadership is that nine billion people simply cannot live well in this world if companies do not start finding new solutions 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 course 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 course 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. Participants will be immersed in how strategies may be implemented through a range of the contemporary advancements in sustainability leadership such as sustainable business models, integrated reporting and the circular economy.

      Students should attend and actively participate in the classes. Students are expected to engage in class discussions, ask questions of speakers, and demonstrate involvement with group exercises.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by dr. S.P. Kennedy.

    • This Master course is primarily aimed at understanding the global strategic and corporate perspective of sustainability issues. The course focuses on the global issues that affect, and are affected, by business. While the first core course provided deeper insight in particular on worldwide (ecological) issues, this second core course considers the international business and international management side more directly – so in particular social and economic sustainability issues will also be taken into account. Global issues are portrayed as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They will take a more prominent role in this course. Moving abroad and managing across borders can be a very profitable exercise for firms. It, however, is also surrounded by considerable risks. 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? What motives are relevant and how can intentions become realities? 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.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

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

    • With the global population growing to 9.7 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, organizations need to foster sustainable development by helping to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. This requires a focus not only on economic, but also on environmental and social performance.  

      Such a focus is not self-evident. Think of 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. Yet even for the many organizational members—CEOs and employees alike—that do embrace sustainability, dilemmas and challenges arise: When should environmental outcomes prevail over social outcomes? How much should we rely on technological solutions? How can we and our stakeholders bridge the gap between good intentions and good behavior? These issues show that sustainability and ethics go hand in hand, and that both present and future business leaders need to embody both.

      This course offers a broad, psychological and philosophical 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, normative stakeholder theory, greenwashing, green consumerism, social dilemmas, environmental ethics, and moral development and sustainable values in individuals and organizations.

      This course emphasizes linking theory, research and practice, and therefore so do the course assignments. As a first assignment, you and your research team will therefore either (a) carry out a quantitative, applied research project on a topic relevant to sustainability and ethics, or (b) conduct research using CSR-reporting from companies either to identify and provide solutions for moral challenges that these companies are facing or to evaluate the fairness of the criteria used by an NGO that ranks brands on sustainability (depending on whether collaboration with this NGO remains possible). Both assignments will allow you to further apply theory and literature on sustainability and ethics, as well as to subject your own ideas to (empirical) scrutiny, and to communicate your findings concisely, accurately, clearly and straightforwardly in a paper of 2500 words maximum. You and your team will also present your research to your fellow students, allowing you to further practice communicating your ideas.

      The second assignment consists of an individual 1000-word essay where you will reflect on material from at least two different lectures. This gives you the opportunity to creatively process the course material. Perhaps you see previously unimagined potential in some of the theories discussed in the lectures, allowing you to propose brand new applications for sustainable development in business. Perhaps you see ways to improve existing theories and make them more relevant to practice. Or perhaps you are skeptical of certain theories, the link between theory and practice, or the value of the empirical research discussed in the lectures.

      This course consists of six lectures, two consultation sessions, and one presentation session. Active participation during the lectures may count toward one’s final grade.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by dr. M.J.J. Wubben, prof. M. Kaptein​​​​​​​ and Leander de Schutter MSc.

    • This course focuses on the sustainability grand challenges of our times. Sustainability grand challenges can refer to environmental or ecological problems as well as social problems. Examples include climate change, land degradation and natural disasters or global displacement, poverty and inequality. Grand challenges are global problems that require combined efforts and new innovative approaches to better understand, harness, and tackle them.

      In this course, you will collaborate to analyze a sustainability grand challenge and formulate ‘solutions’ by engaging multiple partners and by thinking out-of-the-box. Specifically, you work together to create a novel and (commercially) viable solution to a real-world grand challenge. The main learning goal of this course is to understand and harness a grand challenge.

      You will work individually as well as in teams and under significant time pressures to analyze the grand challenge and jointly formulate a credible and feasible ‘solution’. You will individually demonstrate your understanding of the grand challenge with an individual essay and by reviewing one of your peers, and jointly develop and assess a solution in a group report. You will present the solution in the group report to a multi-stakeholder jury at the end of the course. Your groups will need to apply your learning of structuring and delivery of a message in time-restricted and context-sensitive ‘pitching’ format for this presentation.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by Sander Fleuren​​​​​​​.

      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.

    • The course consists of 4 different parts.  

      Part 1: Interview strategy, your story, your aspirations
      During the 1st lecture, we will develop the concept of strategy for a job interview and explore one of its key components: how to tell your introduction story.  In the associated homework assignment, you will reflect on your motivations, strengths and personality traits to try & articulate a possible career direction - all of which should be the basis for the other part of the assignment: a first draft of your introduction story.  

      Part 2: Tell me about a time when...
      In the 2nd lecture, we will explore how to recount in story-like manner your meaningful personal and professional experiences.  In the associated 2nd and 3rd assignments you will develop a portfolio of powerful stories that you can share as you navigate through your job search and the recruitment process.  

      Part 3: Networking
      In the 3rd lecture, we will explore various high impact tools to help you build your network by connect with unknown people eager to help.  You will learn how to reach out and how to conduct impactful conversations with them so that you can get advice from them and learn about the market and opportunities.  In the associated assignments you will develop a list of target organizations, conduct a networking conversation with a “mentor” and learn how to reach out to strangers to ask for help.

      Part 4: Interview strategy (continued)
      In the final lecture, we will complete our exploration of interview strategies.  In particular, you will learn about the non-story aspects of job interviews. In the associated assignment you will develop an interview strategy for a potential interview with one of your target employers.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by N. Constantinesco.

    • With the Circular Economy elective, you are taking the next step in sustainability strategies.

      Where most sustainability strategies today still focus on reducing a company’s negative footprint, in this course we will also look at making a pósitive footprint.
      Academically, this can be referred to as ‘regenerative sustainable development’. For business it means: instead of adding a burden to doing business as usual, we’re implementing a positive agenda to company strategies, business partnerships and customer relationships.

      An exiting and existing example is paint that cleans the air (produced by AkzoNobel), and during this course, we will look at several other examples in the market today and discuss concepts for the future. We will look into the business benefits ánd obstacles of implementing these alternative project and/or company strategies.

      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 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 step forward with a daring proposal for your roadmap assignment, fiery debates in the lectures and bold ideas during the exercises.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by D. den Held

    • From coffee to cellphones, the production and exchange of goods and services has never been more interconnected and dynamic than it is today. The liberalization and deregulation of international trade and investment, alongside IT development, have greatly contributed to the globalization and consequent fragmentation of production and consumption processes throughout countries. The pressure on companies to take their social responsibility –beyond their primary suppliers - has increased. Companies are increasingly viewed as responsible for sustainability and resilience both within the organization as well as in its wider ecosystem of suppliers and customers. In this course we explore the history and drivers of global value chain development and the role of companies in this process.

      Global value chains and value chain approaches are perceived to fulfil an essential role in realizing the SDGs. Value chain approaches, including governance, integration and upgrading, have become important instruments for various stakeholders throughout the globe to create win-win linkages among value chain participants to increase efficiency and scale, enhance value-chain performance, and promote market-based development. Entry into global value chains is perceived to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in and reap the fruits of the global economy. During the course we will learn to understand a global value chain approach and analyse the role of various actors alongside companies, including international organizations and governments, in global value chains.

      Despite the promising role of global value chains in spurring (local) development, their positive impact is not uncontested. How the benefits of value chain participation are distributed depends to a large extent on the conditions under which different actors interact. Participation in global value chains may lead to erosion of labour welfare and breakdown in social cohesion. Global trade spurs transportation, pollution and waste generation, thereby contributing to environmental degradation. There is furthermore the risk of widening economic gaps between countries, while global value chain participation might increase an economy’s vulnerability to external shocks. And although value chain participation has the potential to spur local development, Bottom-of-the-Pyramid (BoP) inclusion is by no means guaranteed. During the course we therefore critically analyze global value chain approaches as ways forward to achieve sustainability and local development.

      ‘Global value chains and local development’ focuses on explaining the historical development and key characteristics of global value chains, mapping different types of value chains and what this means for lead companies as ‘agents of change’, and understanding value chain approaches including governance and upgrading. Furthermore, during the course we will critically analyze the impact for different players, including stimulating economic growth, improving industry competitiveness, and realizing local development.

      This course is offered to you by the Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC), a specialist research centre at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The PrC has the objective to connect science and practice. Linking theoretical knowledge to practical problems, experiences and phenomena is therefore one of the key principles of this course. 

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by dr. M. Faling​​​​​​​. 

    • Nowadays, in many countries the power of government is fading. Governments have failed to solve social issues and have diminished in scope. In addition, we do not only look to government anymore to solve the social issues of our time, use ally. New parties are playing an increasingly decisive role in the political and social arenas: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

      What is often forgotten as an important actor in society is the civil society sphere in which philanthropic nongovernmental and non-profit organizations are active. These organizations often focus on societal issues, such as the need for distributing medical care for those who have little access to it, to reduce poverty, reduce emissions, save the whales or advocate for human rights. Many of them are focused upon advocating governments and businesses to take their responsibilities. Others are collaborating with these organizations to gain additional resources. Just like business and governments, the context in which these NPOs and NGOs operate is very diverse (maybe even more diverse!). Just like for-profit organizations, many different types of NPOs and NGOs exist. Just like for-profit organizations, these organizations serve a mission and have their particular strategies. As such, just like for-profit organizations, these organizations need to be managed properly in order to achieve their goals. In this course, you will see however, that the way in which these organizations are managed, is completely different than in the for-profit or governmental sector.

      During the elective, you will be provided with a theoretical and practical background of the management of philanthropic, non-profit and nongovernmental organizations. During a number of guest lectures, organizations will 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. Moreover, fieldtrips to NPOs/NGOs will be arranged for you to be able to take a look into what really happens at these organisations.

      The research notes will prepare you for the lectures and assignments. The individual assignment will teach you to actively connect research and practice based up on pragmatic real-life issues of NPOs/NGOs. With your group, you will create your own (fictional) NPO/NGO based on a real-life issue of your choice.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by Krijn Turkenburg, MSc​​​​​​​.

    • The growing importance of sustainable business models

      Corporate leaders from smaller as well as larger companies, as start-ups as well as big corporates, are nowadays searching for new and more innovative value propositions that can be linked to more future looking and crisis resilient business models. Partly the search is for rejuvenating existing business models, but increasingly the business models introduced are a response to a society that is considered non-sustainable. Enter: the search for sustainable business models. In the literature this tendency is also referred to as ‘shared value creation’, ‘social innovation’ or ‘business model innovation’. Many synonyms are introduced for this ambition. Most of them look at societal issues from a business model (micro level: how to organise it) as well as from a societal level (macro level: what positive consequences will we have from the wide-spread introduction of the business model).

      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 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 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 from 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 look at partnerships as new forms of governance and at related 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 center 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 details.

      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 2021 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. Students will be using the 2015 Paris Agreement created at COP21 and be simulating the upcoming COP27. 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).

      Students should attend and actively participate in the classes. Students are expected to engage in class discussions, ask questions of speakers, and demonstrate involvement with group exercises.

      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.”

    • Social entrepreneurship is an emerging field of academic study and real-world practice. At its core, social entrepreneurship pertains the combination of market-based and nonprofit approaches to solve social issues, a feat social entrepreneurs achieve by combining the knowledge and skills used in traditional business with a passionate commitment to having a meaningful and sustainable social impact. By combining insights from the academic literature with real cases and scenarios, the course will introduce students to both theory and practice of social entrepreneurship.

      Each week, the course will focus on one important aspect or theme of social entrepreneurship, through two types of lectures: a “theoretical” lecture and a “workshop”.

      • “Theoretical” lectures will compose the first appointment of each one of the six weeks of the course. These lectures will take the form of traditional frontal lectures where the lecturer will cover the material related to the week’s topic.
      • “Workshop” lectures will instead compose the second appointment of each week and will focus on interweaving the theoretical content covered in previous lectures with real case scenarios and practical exercises. Such lectures will be interactive in nature, with in-class exercises (both individual and in groups), case-studies, and contributions from guest practitioners.

      The six weeks of the course will cover the following topics

      • Week 1. Social Entrepreneurship: definition and characteristics
      • Week 2. Social entrepreneurs and opportunities recognition
      • Week 3. Hybrid business models for social enterprises
      • Week 4. Scaling impact in social entrepreneurship
      • Week 5. Evaluating social impact
      • Week 6. Group projects final presentations

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by dr. P. Versari​​​​​​​

    • This course provides insight in the sustainability challenges and the link to finance. The main task of the financial system is to allocate funding to its most productive use. Traditional finance focuses on financial return and regards the financial sector as separate from the society of which it is part and the environment in which it is embedded. By contrast, sustainable finance considers financial, social, and environmental returns in combination and shows how finance can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, inclusive economy.

      The course reviews evidence that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors matter and explains in detail how to incorporate these in company business models and strategies, equity investing, bond investing, and bank lending. The course examines the financial instruments and techniques that can be applied in the context of evolving climate policies (and other sustainability policies). The tools will be applied in a group assignment on the valuation of a company based on ESG factors.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by prof. D. Schoenmaker.

    • The statistics are very clear and pressing: if we want to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we still have a funding gap of a $ 2.5 trillion annually. We therefore need to find other ways to invest in the SDGs and to scale the impact as merely financial resources will not suffice. An increasingly relevant player in this field are Corporate Social Investors (CSIs); e.g. corporate foundations, corporate social impact funds and corporate social accelerators.

      Why? Because these CSIs operate in between the business and the ultimate beneficiary and are in the unique position to leverage corporate resources such as financial means, products, services, technology and the corporate network for the public good. As companies realize that by only pursuing commercial strategies, our wicked problems will not be resolved, an increasing number of companies are implementing non-commercial strategies to contribute to society.

      Indeed, CSI’s are formalized in a separate legal structure to safeguard that they put social impact at the core of their activities rather than financial return. As such, CSIs are aimed at “transforming patterns of thought, behaviour, social relationships, institutions, and social structure to generate beneficial outcomes for individuals, communities, organisations, society, and/or the environment beyond the benefits for the instigators of such transformation” (Stephan et al., 2016, p. 1252; italics added).

      The aim of this course is to introduce students to Corporate Social Investments where social impact is at the core of the activities, rather than the financial return. We will discuss why companies pursue this strategy and why they set up these organizational structures. What is the role of these CSIs in society? What are their strategies? What can they do that the company cannot? And, how are these Corporate Social Investors managed efficiently and effectively?

      The course has six modules:

      Module 1: Introduction and Corporate Social Investors in Europe

      Module 2: Impact Only, Impact first or Finance First?

      Module 3: Governance and management

      Module 4: Non-financial support

      Module 5: CSI and non-profit collaboration

      Module 6: Contemporary modes of corporate social investments.

      In each module, we will be joined by an expert from the field. Guest lecturers in 2021 will include representatives of Ikea Social Entrepreneurship, the Carlsberg Foundation, NN group, and Human Safety Net among others.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ for more details.

      Taught by P. Van Ipenburg-Hendriks​​​​​​​ and J.P. Cornelissen​​​​​​​. 

    • More information to be announced.

    • GBS students have the opportunity to do a practical research internship at an organization (minimum of 168 hours) and replacing an elective course. Any elective block may be selected.

      The company-based project should seek to contribute to the knowledge of a practitioner, e.g. a manager or policy officer within an organization. Important aspect is that the practitioner should need the developed knowledge to act upon. The research should not be related to the thesis, UNLESS it qualifies as an additional data collection method. It must be clear that the CBRP is a separate project that cannot be used as an integral part of the thesis, is can only be used as input for a separate analysis for the thesis.

      If a student opts for a Company-based Research Project one of the electives can be substituted which counts for 6 ECTS. This will give them the opportunity to work exclusively within the company for a period of 7 weeks. Research internships may be agreed for a longer period of time, but a minimum of 168 hours is expected and a maximum of 6 ECTS is credited. A list of available Company-Based Projects can be found through RSM Career Services or occasionally directly through the professors. Students are also welcomed to contact companies directly.

      THIS ELECTIVE COUNTS AS A FREE ELECTIVE FOR GBS STUDENTS ONLY. In order to graduate you MUST complete at least two other GBS programme electives! Please do not select this elective if you have not signed a contract yet. You can use the switch weeks to change to this elective after you have signed.

      Review the course guide​​​​​​​ for more details.

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

    • More information to be announced.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by JS Lodge.

    • In many countries and industries, sustainability accounting is now acknowledged as an essential process of business operation where companies develop measures for their environmental, social, and governance performances; ensure their reliability; report to stakeholders; and assist managers in making critical decisions for their companies and society. However, adopting and implementing such a complex managerial system has become more and more challenging as the demand from stakeholders for responsible business has grown substantially during the past decades as well. This course offers a comprehensive overview of managerial processes involved in sustainability accountability. Students will learn basic concepts, theories and practices and be given opportunities to apply their knowledge and critical thinking to evaluating sustainability reports and standards.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. J Choi.

    • The Sustainable and Equitable Food Stategies (SEFS) course aims at applying a transdisciplinary approach to answer wicked problems in global food sector, with a blend of life sciences such as biology, chemistry, technology, and social sciences, such as communication, economy and management. The ultimate goal is to help students in discovering the origin, the taste and the nutritional value of our food supply, as well as understanding the interactions between the actors of "global food chain" (such as governments, international institutions, local market/producers, the big food corporations and supermarket chains) that shape our diets.  Sustainability of the food production and consumption will be analyzed from United Nation’s Sustainability Goals, taking both environmental and social aspects into consideration.

      The course draws on using a problem-oriented project-work approach by implementing action learning techniques, as well as social media engagement through personal food journals and business case assessments, with a particular focus on corporate social responsibility and responsible citizenship. Major themes include the nutritional, sustainable and equitable properties of food, transformations in food industry and global regulations, and the interactions between food processing, diets and health. Particular attention will be dedicated to DIY sustainability of food that will be tackled from different perspectives, such as healthy dietary patterns, environmental impact of food production (e.g. organic vs industrial food; processed/non processed food; animal based vs plant-based food) and societal drawbacks (food security and the fight against malnutrition). In order to realize this ambition, the course will collaborate with Erasmus Food Lab for cooking workshops and with Campus Garden for gardening workshops where all theoretical knowledge will be put into practice, together with students and sustainable food and agriculture practitioners.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. Sergio Mugnai.

    • 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 is structured to coincide with work on the thesis.

      In this course we provide an overview of methodological principles underlying both qualitative and quantitative methods. We will cover the following topics: reviewing the literature, formulating research questions, research strategies and designs, sampling, common types of data collection methods (interviewing, surveys, and experiments), data analysis, writing, and research ethics.

      Note: In continuation of this course, students will do a second course (Research Methodology II) that consists of workshops that they can pick based on what methods they need for their thesis. These workshops will take place from February to May 2022.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr. G. Berens and dr. P. Versari.

    • This course consists of a series of workshops on specific qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods, such as interviews, experiments, surveys, qualitative coding, and statistical hypothesis testing. In principle, all workshops are offered multiple times, so that students can follow them when at a time that matches with the progress in your thesis project. Students are expected to follow, and actively participate in, at least two of these workshops, depending on the methods they will be using in their thesis research.

      Review the course guide for more details.

      Taught by dr G. Berens and S. Jellema.

    • 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.

For more information on all international opportunities offered at RSM, visit the website of our International Office.