As one of the first movers among academic institutions, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) signed up to the UN's Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative in 2007. The School has just released a progress report that offers a snapshot of sustainability initiatives over the past two years – and how far it has progressed in reaching its sustainability goals.

Activities span everything from major events, high-profile research projects, partnerships and network memberships to curriculum changes and the greening of operations. RSM uses the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guiding framework. Each of the initiative's 650 signatory members – top business and management schools around the world – issues such a report every two years documenting their progress in implementing the six PRME principles. RSM’s report covers 190 pages and outlines activities across three categories: teaching, research, and operations.

Dean Steef van de Velde: “Our mission is to become a leading force for positive change in the world, and this document demonstrates the extent to which RSM is achieving this. Part of what makes our school stand out is that sustainability is a part of the culture and fabric of RSM, with our community increasingly driving our efforts. We are proud of how much progress we have made.”

Committed to sustainability from the start

RSM was one of the first business schools to sign up to the PRME initiative in 2007. The PRME’s mission ‘to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally’ via adherence to six key principles is parallel to RSM’s mission, which also sits alongside the UN's 17 SDGs. RSM aims to embed those in all its endeavours.

Professionalising sustainability

A strategic highlight of the report is RSM’s recent success in professionalising sustainability efforts. Sustainable RSM and its growing number of committees, as well as the university-wide Erasmus Sustainability Hub, now co-ordinate efforts across education, research, engagement and operations. Both organisations serve as central portals of expertise that aim to raise the profile of sustainability within the RSM community and create opportunities for students, staff and faculty to contribute to projects that produce concrete results.

A way to embed sustainability into the culture and stimulating community involvement has been captured in the school's aspirational IWILL initiative. Students are encouraged to publicly commit to becoming an instrument for positive change with a personal statement. The PRME report states that 11,000 statements have been shared by students, faculty, staff, alumni and corporate contacts since the initiative started in 2009.

Research and engagement

Sustainability issues are being actively driven in research and engagement at RSM. The first chair in 'cradle to cradle' has been endowed at RSM as well as a new chair in International Business and Human Rights. RSM’s research has been made more easily accessible to business practitioners through the introduction of RSM Discovery's online video platform which covers ethics, responsible management and sustainability. Highlights from recent research include the development of a three-phase sustainability model to help companies manage their transition to becoming sustainable (currently being used by Rabobank) and the creation of the Public Private Partnership Laboratory (PPP Lab) that aims to promote effective partnering between organisations – there are currently Dutch-supported PPPs for sustainable food and water.

Practical integration

In education, collaboration with pioneers in sustainability such as Commonland has led to practical experiences for students that count towards their final grading. MBA programmes go further, embedding sustainability throughout the curriculum. In the 2016 Corporate Knights Better World MBA ranking, RSM's MBA was ranked in the top ten worldwide for the integration of sustainability into its curriculum.

Less is more

In addition to a university-wide campus construction programme that keeps sustainability at the forefront, RSM’s efforts include a reduction in electricity consumption since 2011 — despite more students and staff on campus. The School has halved its paper consumption as a result of a multitude of small changes, such as replacing paper towels with cloth, paper cups for mugs, and changing the settings on the printers to double-sided. RSM recently added 450 indoor bicycle parking spaces to encourage more commutes by bike.

Future options

And for the future? RSM will continue to actively create and disseminate theory and models that reinforce the need for and adoption of sustainable operations by organisations, continue to opt for greener and more inclusive solutions in its operations, and especially educate our students to make better and more conscious business decisions that are in the interests of all stakeholders as future leaders into a sustainable business.

The full report can be found here.

The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is the first organised relationship between the United Nations and management-related academic institutions. PRME provides a global network for academic institutions to advance corporate sustainability and social responsibility, and an engagement framework for the incorporation of universal values into curricula and research. Since its official launch in 2007, the initiative has grown to more than 650 leading academic institutions from over 85 countries across the world. The six principles are: purpose, values, method, research, partnership and dialogue. For more information see:

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, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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