A series of business cases addressing the challenge of waste management culminated in a 24-hour challenge for students taking part in the student-organised RSM STAR Case Competition at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). RSM’s student-led study association STAR hosted 12 competing teams of undergraduate students from top international business schools between 15 - 22 April 2018. Teams were asked to devise solutions to real-life business cases about waste management. As a result of the students’ imaginative and thorough thinking, some of their ideas will actually be used in waste management and marketing strategies.

The best solutions were provided by Team University of Calgary, Team University of Technology, Sydney and Team Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. The 12 teams of four represented top business schools in 10 countries including Canada, the United States, Thailand and China. The real-life business cases were written by the RSM Case Development Centre (CDC) in collaboration with other case development companies, plus Hago Airport Services, NederlandSchoon, and Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP).

A real appetite for cases

Bachelor students joining the competition are showing a real appetite for the type of work they will encounter if they progress to a career in consultancy; they get hands-on experience of real-life cases and receive authentic feedback from company representatives. Businesses taking part get usable ideas and strategies from the freshest and smartest brains at top international business schools.

A student’s view

Participant Assel Zhumatayeva, a second-year BSc International Business Administration student at RSM, was curious to join in. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience. We met so many intelligent and ambitious students from all over the world who share a passion for consulting. One of my main goals was to learn as much as I could from other presentations, the training and my own performance. I wanted to perform to the highest possible standard and I think I managed to do it.” She found the judges’ feedback on her team’s strategies and presentations valuable. Although Assel’s team did not get to the finals, they still got positive feedback and advice about improving their performance in future case competitions, and in their careers.

A challenging series of business cases

Day 1 of the competition presented the first stages of the 10-hour business cases to be solved. These came from Hago Airport Services and NederlandSchoon.

Day 2 began with a challenging training session from EY-Parthenon, the main partner of the RSM STAR Case Competition 2018. Participants worked on their writing skills – which also helped with preparation for the 24-hour business case later in the week. Writing training was followed by the final stages of the 10-hour cases and a company dinner during which the 24-hour case partner, Coca-Cola European Partners, was announced. On Day 3, participants visited Coca-Cola’s production site in Dongen, Brabant.

On Day 4, the 24-hour Coca-Cola business case challenge was revealed. The teams of four worked non-stop in order to present their solutions for feedback and the announcement of a shortlist the next morning, followed by the grand final and award ceremony later that day. The winner of the Hago case was Team University of Calgary, followed by Team Ivey. Team University of Technology, Sydney took the first place of the NederlandSchoon case, and the runner up was Team HEC Montréal. The top three of the Coca-Cola case were Team University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business, Team University of Technology, Sydney and Team Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

Student brain power against litter

Yolanda Redeker from anti-litter organisation NederlandSchoon commented: “Only by joining forces can we set a new social norm and create a sustainable environment. Joining forces includes involving talented students working on solutions for a litter-free Netherlands. In our case, we used their expertise, energy and brain power to review our Supporter van Schoon movement which we launched five years ago.

“We were impressed by the students’ approaches, especially by the recommendations from the winning team of the University of Technology, Sydney, which focused on maintaining our current strategy, but with technical and online innovations to catalyse the mental shift to a circular economy.

“Overall we were very impressed by the excellent performances of all students and the synergy between the three main cases and partners. Well done!”

Surprising solutions

Niels Sascha Reedijk, innovation manager at Hago Airport Services, was positively surprised by the analysis and solutions of the participating teams: “While my customer, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and I were working with RSM’s Case Development Centre, we were unsure whether it would lead to new insights. After all, we have been trying out initiatives and interventions to increase passenger participation in separating waste for years already. But we were wrong: from the onset of the presentations, it was clear that the students approached the problems from refreshing angles, with surprising solutions to match.”

Coca-Cola inspired by students

For Coca-Cola European Partners, its first foray as the subject of such a large business case competition was inspiring. RSM alumnus Hans van Bochove, Vice-President European Public Affairs, said: “Ahead of the event, we didn’t really know what to expect. Coca-Cola’s challenging case sought advice for collecting its packaging, and how to inspire consumers to recycle.

“Given the high level of schools participating, we were hoping to get a diverse view of our global business challenge from students that we consider to be the world’s next generation of business leaders. They will play a critical role in solving today’s challenges for a better world tomorrow.

“We were impressed by the ambition and the skills of the participating students. Witnessing the students working for a straight 24 hours on that challenge, watching them coming up with a thorough analysis and creative proposals that were well thought-through, and then delivering a professional presentation, has been very inspiring for us”. Coca-Cola made a short video of the event.

Appropriate local – not global – solutions

Without exception, all the cases presented were of outstanding quality and contained both straightforward and surprising recommendations, said Hans van Bochove. “The reason why the jury choose the solution from Team Chulalongkorn University, Thailand as this year’s winner was because it taught us a valuable lesson.

“Straightforward business and marketing solutions that may work in many developed markets of the world may not be applicable elsewhere. The Chulalongkorn team demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the local market’s fabric and proposed appropriate solutions for that specific market. It thought us that a one-size fits all approach does not exist.”

Hans van Bochove was complimentary about other teams’ proposals. “We will certainly further review the recommendations from all the teams, and include some of them in our waste management and marketing strategies in the relevant markets in which we operate” He added: “The organisation of the whole event by RSM and its student association STAR was impeccable. Participating in a project like this is certainly something we would consider doing again.”

Sustainability in focus

RSM and STAR are both highly engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainable business; RSM’s mission is to be a force for positive change in the world and it uses the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for education and research. This year, the RSM STAR Case Competition’s focus was on sustainability and on online marketing.

STAR is the study association of RSM. With more than 6,500 members, STAR is Europe’s largest student‑ruled study association and above all the most active and professional study association in the Netherlands. Each year, about 300 dedicated active members organise STAR projects that reach thousands of students. rsmstar.nl

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

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

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