Teams of 5-6 students from the 16 universities in the Netherlands and the UK worked together with a leading organisation to tackle the company’s SDG challenge. In a ‘pressure-cooker’ setting, the student teams had to come up with tangible and actionable ideas that will contribute to the SDGs. The challenge kicked off in early April, and included partner meetings at the company’s headquarters, pitch training, coaching, digital speed dates with inspiring companies, and ultimately the grand finale at Paleis Soestdijk in early June.
Transparency, awareness and accountability
RSM’s team consisted of bachelor students Xin Yun Stiemsma (honours student), Nikolaus Stern (honours student), Turan Gadzijev, Wing Kee Winnie Kwok, RSM master student Anna Chiara Saccani, and bachelor honours student Kayla Steeghs from Erasmus University College. They started working on a challenge for the Netherlands Court of Audit (NCA – Algemene Rekenkamer) in early April 2023. NCA audits the spending of the Dutch national government on its efficiency and legitimacy.
The RSM students created an SDG mapper with three components: a method, instruments and communication strategy. The NCA can use this SDG mapper to improve transparency, create more awareness of climate policies among the population, and hold the Dutch government accountable to contributing to the 17 SDGs.
At the final at Paleis Soestdijk in early June, each of the 15 teams had only 90 seconds to present their solutions in front of a professional jury, who also read the teams’ extensive business plans.
The jury members were Josephine Ris (policy officer energy conservation at Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy), Mena Leila Kilani (senior project manager at SDG Nederland), Folkert van der Molen (founder Van der Molen E.I.S. and founder Nationaal Sustainability Congres), Flo Pattiwael (sustainable investmnets at PGGM/UNGC SDG Young Leaders Network), and Andrea Orsag (founder MissionC and sustainability expert at European Commission).
They chose RSM as winner because of the solution’s ability to implement, scale up and direct impact it can have on the transparency of government spendings on SDGs. With the students’ solution, SDGs will be much more prominently integrated into all reports of the NCA. The winning team received arts and culture gift cards.
RSM team captain Xin Yun Stiemsma said: “I’m so proud of what my team achieved! It was amazing to see what creative solutions all the participating teams came up with. It proves that students can achieve great things together in just a couple of weeks!”
In second place was a team combined with students from Erasmus University Rotterdam and Wageningen University & Research, including RSM student Robin Croes. The team made a report for the Rotterdam-based company Cefetra. The innovation they proposed aims to trace produce that co-mingles during transport.
The annual SDG-Challenge University connects and mobilises students and organisations to work together on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to combat climate change and to reduce inequalities worldwide. The Challenge is organised by Soapbox, which is based in Amsterdam, Maastricht and Cape Town. Its goal is to trigger students to pursue a career in making the world more future-proof and to make organisations use the ideas to make their business more sustainable.