Keynote speaker Marcello Palazzi, who is global ambassador of B Corporations, spoke about building a regenerative economy, a mission that seeks to shift from exploitation to exploration of natural and human resources which repairs the planet and society.
“How can we shift the capitalist system towards more positive than negative impact? Entrepreneurs can get us there!” said Palazzi. But he also pointed out that a great portion of the existing 10,000 B Corp-certified companies include bigger companies who want to take on the journey towards a regenerative economy. “We have been extracting value from society and the planet – so our profit is close to nothing.” There needs to be a shift away from mere profits, to profit plus impact, he said.
Smashing sustainability clichés
Four professionals in the field of sustainable business who are dealing with social resilience formed a panel and smashed sustainability clichés: Anniek Mauser (sustainability director at Unilever), Arnoud Molenaar (chief resilience officer at the City of Rotterdam), Justin Pariag (head of sustainable business at De Bijenkorf), and Talitha Muusse (millennial expert/social entrepreneur). The discussion, which was moderated by Professor of Strategic Philanthropy and Volunteering Lucas Meijs, explored sustainable clichés into much detail.
One cliché was ‘it is impossible to be against sustainability’. All panelists shared anecdotes on experiencing resistance when presenting sustainable practices. Mauser said sustainability is merely a term that one needs to define on their own, especially in such a polarizing political climate. Molenaar argued that strategic framing is essential to the delivery of disruptive practices, noting that transparency and potential benefits are key selling points. In addition to framing, Pariag reminded the predominantly student audience that the common understanding of ‘sustainability’ has evolved over the decades but that the necessity to create business resilience against the changing environment – both social and natural – is ever-prevalent.
Participants then attended breakout sessions in which they explored real-life sustainability issues with business representatives from various industries. Representatives from Capgemini, Corekees, EY, ING, Plennid and Wolkat brought forward business cases focusing on storytelling, start-ups, integrated reporting, banking, sustainable business models and recycling strategies.
KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award
The KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award was presented at the Sustainability Forum. Alumnus Paul Ruijs (a 2018 graduate from RSM’s MSc Global Business & Sustainability), was recognised for his thesis about short-termism in investments. MSc Supply Chain Management alumnus Annelou Ringers, whose thesis is about socially-responsible purchasing in the fast-fashion industry, was the runner-up.
The RSM STAR Sustainability Forum 2019 was moderated by Melissa Ablett, Cambridge Innovation Center’s Strategic Director for Europe.