Improving society is an everyday matter for two outstanding RSM alumni who received the RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards 2014. Alba Tiley and Herbert Smorenburg were honoured for their business efforts – which affect billions of people worldwide.

Story by Dorine Schreiner and Justine Whittern

Each year, RSM recognises young and senior leaders from its 29,000 alumni for their excellence in business and contribution to society in relation to RSM’s four core themes of sustainability, innovation, critical thinking and spirit. The winners of this year’s RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards strive for the same cause: global nutrition. Both received their awards in October at the RSM Leadership Summit.


“We have all the ingredients to turn a sustainable and equitable society into reality.”

Alba Tiley, RSM distinguished young leader 2014.


Distinguished young leader 

Alba Tiley (MSc in Strategic Management 2010) shows the benefits businesses provide when acting ethically and providing products and services that solve real needs. ‘Having a solid external orientation and staying on top of global sustainability trends are beneficial to strategy, marketing and business development,’ says the UN partnerships and sustainability manager at Royal DSM.

‘Given the issues we face today – ranging from climate change to social inequality – it’s difficult to not feel a desire to act,’ says Alba, who was nominated for the award by Joey Johannsen, RSM’s sustainability co-ordinator. ‘We can’t sit back and expect other people or sectors to fix things for us.’

At RSM, the Canadian researched the strategic value of cross-sector partnerships. Alba says: ‘There’s a major need for collaboration between governments, communities and companies to find solutions to large-scale issues, such as those related to the food industry given its direct impact on the environment, people’s health, economic growth and the link to sustainable consumption patterns.’

Alba works on a nutrition project in partnership with the UN World Food Programme to solve complex matters across sector boundaries in the fast-changing world of sustainability. By co-ordinating the programme, which co-develops nutritional products for children, pregnant women and people living with HIV/AIDS, Alba has helped improve the nutrition of 21 million people in 2013, and aims to reach 30 million people annually by 2015.

‘One billion people still go to bed hungry every night,’ says Alba, who aims to continue her career in developing partnerships to fight global problems. ‘We have all the ingredients to turn a sustainable and equitable society into reality. I make my small contribution to this journey and am grateful to RSM for the great start.’

Distinguished senior leader

As senior manager (Netherlands) at Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Herbert Smorenburg (Executive MBA 2002) takes a sustainable approach to address global malnutrition issues through business development. His work across sectors and countries requires strong relationships, inter-cultural management and other people skills to successfully develop business models that bring nutrition to the base of the pyramid. ‘Good nutrition is fundamental for society’s success. Under-nutrition and over-nutrition affects billions. I want to contribute to solve this.’ says Herbert, who was nominated by RSM career coach Dory Grandia.

Malnutrition is a complex problem that cannot be solved by any business, NGO, knowledge institute or government in isolation, according to Herbert. That is why he works with partners to explore innovative and sustainable solutions to malnutrition in developing countries.

Previously employed by Unilever, Herbert says RSM inspired him to start up the Unilever Health Institute for Sub-Saharan Africa. He then began to grasp the complexity of conducting multinational business with company strategy and end-users in mind. At RSM, Herbert regularly provides coaching, joins panel discussions, and has spoken at the RSM Sustainability Forum. It’s interesting to discuss the role of business when addressing societal issues with future leaders,’ he says. ‘I’m impressed by this younger generation’s creativity and innovation when approaching sustainable business development.’   

Herbert plans to continue making a significant impact to reduce malnutrition in developing countries. The results fulfill him professionally and personally. ‘Knowing that our work makes a difference to so many gets me up every morning,’ he says.

The nominees

Distinguished Young Leaders

Robin Slakhorst and Korstiaan Zandvliet (MSc Entrepreneurship & New Business Venturing 2010) founders, Symbid Corporation

Kiki Vreeling (MSc in Global Business & Stakeholder Management 2005)

Founder and owner, Ki2

Marten Dresen (MSc in Strategic Management 2007)

Founder of Good Hospitality, and general board member at Niños de Guatemala

Namita Krul (Parttime Master Bedrijfskunde 2010)

Founder of WORK+SHELTER, co-founder of New Yardsticks, and credit manager at BNG Bank

Bo Wiesman and Michael van Schie (MSc Entrepreneurship & New Business Venturing 2005)

Founders, NewCompliance


Distinguished Senior Leaders


Patrick Kalverboer (Doctoraal Bedrijfswetenschappen 1997)

Managing partner at H2 Equity Partners in the UK, and various non-executive board positions

Natalie Righton (MSc Strategic Management 2000)

Journalist and editor, de Volkskrant

Reinier Willems (International Full-time MBA 2000)

Marketing director, LeasePlan International

Marcello Palazzi (International Full-time MBA 1993)

Founder and president, Progressio Foundation

Karen Chang (International Full-time MBA 1997)

Owner, Acro Novelty Design and Manufacturing, Taiwan

Diederik Rus (MSc Marketing Management 2004) and Victor Hendriks (MSc Innovation Management 2005) Owners, Otravo B.V. (,

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of RSM Outlook.

RSM Outlook