Is sustainable development relevant for every business? For example, can every kind of business or organisation do something to counter climate change, or help to create a global culture for sustainable development? A new massive open online course (MOOC) from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) focuses on the role of businesses in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is presented by academics in business and management, while many leaders of international companies contribute by sharing how their organisation incorporates the SDGs in their strategy. The seven-week course is for people who want to start to create a culture of sustainable business, and explores how businesses can contribute to a better future for people AND the planet without giving up profits. Driving Business Towards The SDGs is available now via the Coursera platform.

Business as a force for positive change

The course is suitable for anyone interested in knowing more about how business can be a force for positive change. Participants follow a schedule of videos, readings, personal reflection, peer reviews, quizzes and weekly ‘hummingbird’ challenges to gain a better understanding of the relevance of the SDGs and how to bring about positive change, either as an individual or as part of an organisation. The course takes place over seven weeks, each week focusing on several aspects of sustainable development and with a workload of about two to four hours per week.

RSM’s director of positive change, Eva Rood said: “We aim to empower participants with a mentality for making a difference; for them to realise that transformative change starts with the power of one. And of course after that, it’s not only about an individual making a difference but also finding others who can scale-up the impact and accelerate the transformation.”

Successful implementation

In each of the seven weeks, different SDGs are addressed, and an explanation is provided of how the SDGs are interconnected. The course materials guide participants to understand what is necessary for businesses and organisations to implement strategies that help to achieve the SDGs for positive impact on the business or on society.

SDGs and profit ‘not mutually exclusive’

“While many organisations have already adopted the SDGs, implementing them effectively to achieve impact is a different question,” says Prof. Rob van Tulder of RSM’s department of business-society management. This new MOOC explains what the SDGs mean, how they can unlock business potential, and how they can be combined with a for-profit business model that delivers multiple values, such as natural and social capital. The MOOC also emphasises the necessity of partnerships and cross-sector collaboration.

Guidance for opportunities

Over the course of seven weeks, participants are guided by RSM’s academics to discover how the SDGs can become an opportunity rather than a challenge, and why and how individuals should contribute to positive change. Examples are illustrated by leaders from a variety of businesses – from multinationals to start-ups and scale-ups.

Participants will explore partnerships and learn how sharing knowledge can help to create impact, scale up ideas and initiatives, and change perceptions to make transformation possible  They discover systems thinking, ways to reduce carbon footprints, the interconnectedness of the SDGs, and mitigating negative impact.

This MOOC addresses each of the 17 SDGs and the issues they relate to. Towards the conclusion of the course, the focus is on critical thinking to encourage participants to think about what they can do.

SDGs as core strategy

RSM has also made a series of over 70 videos that everyone can watch, showing examples of how business knowledge can contribute to the SDGs and how organisations that have adopted the SDGs into their core strategy bring lasting positive change.

Contributions from RSM faculty members include Prof. Rob van Tulder; Prof. Dirk Schoenmaker; Dr Steve Kennedy; Dr Frank Wijen; Prof Cees van Dam; Dr Marta Szymanowska; Prof. Erik van Raaij; Dr Yashar Ghiassi-Farrokhfal; Dr Tobias Brandt; Prof. Michaéla Schippers; Prof. Dianne Bevelander; Prof. René de Koster; Dr Ferdinand Jaspers; Dr Anne-Kathrin Klesse; Prof. Gabriele Jacobs; Dr Ying Zhang, Prof. Steef van de Velde, Marieke de Wal and Dr Amanda Williams.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked 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.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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