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RSM’s Positive Change Initiative co-organises several activities to exchange ideas, expose sustainability-themed thesis research, and learn from practitioners through keynote speeches and engaging workshops. Read all about the RSM-STAR Changemaker Forum, the annual KPMG Thesis Award and the SDG masterclasses below.

Want to get a jump start on writing your own thesis? Join KPMG-RSM Master sustainability Thesis Award team!

As a team member, you can:

• prepare for your thesis-writing this semester.

• take note of top-ranked RSM theses from last year’s MSc graduates.

• work with other dedicated students, as a team select the top five theses and send to our KPMG jury.

• interact with our corporate sponsor to create the spring award ceremony at the RSM-STAR Sustainability Forum.

You can join the KPMG-RSM Master sustainability Thesis Award team if you’re an RSM master student. Join the team by sending your CV and short motivation letter to before 18 September, 09:00.

RSM-STAR Changemaker Forum

We aim to inspire and motivate current RSM students to become the future changemakers that our society needs. At the RSM-STAR Changemaker Forum, business leaders and alumni in several industries share their journey around the topics that every changemaker talks about the most: sustainability, purpose-driven leadership, responsible entrepreneurship, and positive social impacts. The event builds on the essence of the previous Sustainability Forums, and expands the discussion around sustainability to a broader scope: ‘a positive change’.

KPMG-RSM Master Sustainability Thesis Award

The annual KPMG-RSM Master Sustainability Thesis Award aims to honour work which combines academic excellence and business relevance in the subject of sustainability management. To qualify, thesis subjects must be related to social and ecological sustainability and have achieved a mark of at least 8.5 during the thesis defense. Theses from the past academic year are reviewed. A final shortlist presents five theses, chosen according to their academic excellence, socio-environmental impact, business relevance, and originality. The winner is picked by a select jury of external leaders working in the field of corporate sustainability.

Winners & nominees

Winner: Antonio Cambio

MSc Master International Management - CEMS

Thesis: Achieving Supply Security: How Resource-Dependent Firms Threatened by Climate

Risk Adapt to Climate Change, examines the intensified threat of vulnerable global supply chains by climate change. His study gives clear recommendations and investigates which strategies mitigate risks and increase resilience, from both social and environmental impact standpoints. His findings further suggest that bridging and buffering strategies should be combined to improve resilience against sudden supply chain disruptions and to decrease the overall vulnerability of wide supply chains. 

Runner-up: Jonne van Gils

MSc Global Business and Sustaianability

Thesis: Is the Cloud the way to Green? Cloud Technology Impact on Corporate Sustainability provides clear guidelines and implications for choosing to use cloud technology. Furthermore, the jury noted that Jonne’s findings can be translated across a large range of companies, thereby potentially creating a large impact on a global scale. 

The shortlisted award nominees and their thesis titles:

  • Bloeme Cohen  (MSc Global Business & Sustainability) – Frugal innovation: a pathway to inclusive development? A study of fortified food in West Africa through a gender lens 
  • Darpana Vellanki (MSc Global Business & Sustainability) – How brands in the Dutch textile industry can build cascading networks for product life extension to create circular production and consumption systems
  • Iris Budie (MSc Global Business & Sustainability) – Steering, structuring and governing sustainability in the dairy trading industry

Winner: Florian Frenken

MSc Business Information Management

Thesis: A data mining approach to garment size chart optimization and online garment size recommendation

Florian Frenken focused on optimization of garment size charts and online recommendation, as one of the biggest concerns in the apparel industry is the returned clothes. Due to COVID-19, an increase of online shopping happened which would only increase the 15 million tons of carbon emission and two billion kilograms of landfill waste. The study provides a different tool to provide customers with the applicable measurements needed to buy clothing. The thesis addresses social and sustainable impact as people would become more comfortable with buying clothes that fits them, and there would be fewer returns and less packaging waste. This can decrease carbon emission and landfill waste and saves logistics, production and shipping costs for businesses.

Runner up: Maurits Pluimakers

MSc Supply Chain Management)

Thesis: A shared vision on demurrage: the role of the terminal in increasing efficiency of liquid bulk sea transport

Maurits Pluimakers investigated a radical approach to reduce the carbon footprint in the shipping industry. He suggests a different model to engage stakeholders around terminals to change the current first come, first serve model and replace this with a system focusing on the most optimal sailing speed from an environmental perspective. It would reduce the CO2 emissions for one ship by 25 per cent, which would be the equivalent of the annual gas consumption of 215 cars. The model would also be applicable to other supply chains. The jury appreciated the methodical analysis of the different stakeholders and the system in which they operate as one of the most important aspects of sustainability is to recognise the system to be able to disrupt it.


Sandra Slotboom

MSc Global Business & Sustainability

Thesis: The Innovation of business models for social-ecological resilience

Sandra Slotboom describes the case study of La Almendrehesa where an innovative business model is used to restore landscapes an build a business model focusing on four returns: return of inspiration, return of social capital, return of natural capital, and return of financial capital. The jury saw the results from this thorough thesis as a stepping stone for others to implement their own social-ecological innovative business models.


Manuel Weber

MSc Global Business & Sustainability

Thesis: Toward an economy that makes us thrive regardless of economic growth

This new method, designed by Manuel Lucas Weber, measures growth which is not based on the GDP. It provides valuable insides in how a society can overcome the focus on economic growth and instead focus our efforts into a more sustainable method of thinking about growth. The jury appreciated the thought-provoking thesis which could have a potential impact on the environment and society.


Sophie Gommers

MSc Business Information Management

Thesis: Beyond mapping: exploring the socioeconomic determinants of depression using geotagged Twitter data and geodemographics

The jury was impressed with the innovative, data-driven method that Sophie Gommers used to show how Twitter data can be used to determine or extract certain information. Specifically, Sophie researched whether it was possible to use Twitter to determine the geographical distribution of people with depression and the influence of socioeconomic indicators to identify vulnerable individuals with a risk of depression. The jury saw a lot of promise and opportunities for this research in different context.

Winner: Dionne van der Nat
MSc Human Resource Management
Thesis: Gendered wording in managerial recruitment materials: How organizations lose potential female applicants

Van der Nat’s thesis addresses how the stereotyping of occupational areas and managerial experience influences women’s inclination to apply for top-level positions. Her study tested whether managerial recruitment materials are perceived as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and what effect this has on potential candidates’ inclination to apply. She found that women rate managerial recruitment materials as more agentic than men do – so they are less inclined to apply. Van der Nat also found that managerial stereotypes for roles and requirements for managerial experience have a significant influence on women’s inclination to apply. Jerwin Tholen of KPMG and chairman of the jury found the thesis very specific and its recommendations easy to implement. “Almost all companies have gender balance ambitions in top positions and there’s still a way to go,” he said.

Runner-up: Sam van Houten
MSc Business Information Management
Thesis: The price and volume dynamics of inland Rhine shipping in relation to climate induced water level changes

Since the potential implications of the changing climate on the water levels are realistic, this thesis researches a very important phenomenon. It provides information in particular for supply chain actors and how they are affected by the ongoing climate crisis developments. Van Houten maps out different scenarios that allow for a deep analysis on a long-term spectrum. It gives an indication of how likely each scenario is which makes the thesis highly applicable for companies that are uncertain how to structure their operations to be flexible for possible changes in the long-term. It also encourages companies to realize the severity of the climate crisis on their business operations and that they need to undergo serious structural changes that value the environment’s role in their logistics.


Uli Fretzen
MSc Business Information Management
Thesis: Temporal city-scale matching of solar photovoltaic generation and electric vehicle charging

Fretzen highlights the realisation that the environmental impact of electric vehicles is highly dependent on the energy source used for the charging stations. The thesis allows the providers of charging stations in major cities to reflect on their responsibility to provide clean energy for electric vehicle users. It explains the shift of environmental responsibility away from the company manufacturing the car to the company providing electric fuel.

The thesis maps out multiple strategies to increase the use of solar panels to charge electric vehicles and illustrates them through a real-life case in Rotterdam. It also legitimizes experimenting with demand-response strategies which companies can employ to try out different tactics.

Marie Bonnot
MSc Global Business and Sustainability
Thesis: A Contested Concept Private Sector Engagement in Refugee Integration

The topic of private sector engagement in refugee integration presented by Bonnot deals with an important subject of social sustainability that is especially relevant for European countries following the refugee crisis. The thesis clearly outlines the business case for engaging in refugee integration and gives companies an incentive to do so. Through an analysis of internal and external factors influencing companies to engage with refugees, the author is able to identify benefits and barriers through well researched interviews with various multi internationals that have experience in the field.

Julie Loyson
MSc Global Business & Sustainability
Thesis: Money can make the economy go circular

Loyson identifies and evaluates barriers and enablers for financiers to financially support SMEs in their quest to translate circular business models from theory to practice. She inductively researched the Dutch financial sectors to conceptualize reasons for financiers to support circular SMEs. She also identifies the possible reason for financiers to not engage with circular SMEs and provides and explanation that can be clearly addressed to overcome this barrier. Thus, the thesis is rather extensive in its insights for both circular SMEs that are looking to attract funding as well as financiers that which to support them.

Winner: Paul Ruijs
MSc Global Business & Sustainability
Thesis title: Overcoming short-termism of investors, a barrier for sustainable development contributions

The thesis considers sustainable development initiatives as a form of investment, i.e. strategic decisions involving key investors. It addresses the dynamics between investors and sustainability approaches that trigger companies to exploit their ability to attract the kind of investors that suit their sustainable development agenda.

Runner-up: Annelou Ringers
MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis: The implementation of socially responsible purchasing in the fast fashion industry - A critical evaluation of existing SRP practices in Bangladesh and China

The thesis is about socially responsible purchasing in the fast fashion industry. She adapted existing models to the context of tier-one ready-made garment purchasing in China and Bangladesh. Current socially responsible purchasing mechanisms appear to merely counter the problems in the fast fashion industry. Her thesis addresses the recent, harrowing developments in Bangladesh. To foster long-term social sustainability, Ringers calls for the entire fast fashion model to be reconsidered. Her innovative thinking points towards blockchain and 3D printing technology to support better business.


Theodoor Klaauw

MSc Business Information Management
Thesis: How does partnership composition affect project performance in smart city ecosystems?

The thesis provides insights into how the composition of smart city partnerships affect project performance. Based on the Collaborative Governance model, the author came up with an adjusted model showing a direct relationship between partnership composition and project performance. Multiple partnership success characteristics are identified, namely ecosystem size, clear role distribution and expectations, resilience and flexibility, governance structure, and business-market combinations.

The study provides direction to ensure that the right mix of interests will be presented in smart city ecosystems and develops a framework that helps optimize project performance. Multiple conclusions are reached and most arguments for conclusions are well-thought.

Carolin Lanfer
MSc Global Business & Sustainability
Thesis Title: Implementation of Disruptive Circular Business Models Enabling an Industry-Wide Transformation Towards a Circular Economy

The author identified and evaluated organizational practices to support companies in the implementation of disruptive circular business models with the goal of an industry-wide transformation. The study found that the identification of a problem with the current linear system causes individuals or companies to set up a circular business model and work towards a systems-wide circular vision.

This thesis offers additional insights that may be relevant for organizations such as the role of funding and crowdfunding to achieve circular economy, risk barriers of a new business model, the role of customers as ambassadors of the new model, obstacles to scale-up circular businesses, collaboration with competitors (coopetition), among many others.

Jaap van Beek
MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis: Can traceability be the solution to social and environmental sustainability problems in the cocoa industry?

The topic of traceability presented by the author deals with processes in industries that are hard to monitor. By creating a cross-over between data governance and the food industry supply chain, the author outlines a technical solution to the very real, tangible problems of safety, quality, ethics and sustainable production in the food industry. Van Beek presents a thesis on data governance, fraudulent mixing, transaction cost economics and offers a critical view on the possibilities of traceability in the food industry. 

Winner: Tatjana Mirosnicenko
MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis: E-grocery: the effectiveness of content sharing on social media in promoting green slot choice behavior

The thesis describes four clear wins for retailers in her thesis:

1. Transport efficiency and a reduced footprint of traffic, not only through the delivery vehicle itself but also the reduction of emissions from cars that have to wait when streets are blocked. By promoting ‘green-slots’, consumers are incentivised to pick similar time-frames that will lead to consolidation of shipments.

2. Increased brand loyalty – consumers like the solution and feel good about it.

3. Increased brand awareness – every post on social media contributes to a green image of the retailer.

4. Cost reductions for the retailer and transporter. Green slot choices stimulate customer to have their orders delivered around the same time. In this way, shipments can be consolidated and transportation can be reduced.

Runner-up: Thomas Behrendt

MSc International Management/CEMS

Thesis: Rethinking episodic volunteering in the light of the gig economy.

Behrendt’s research reveals that short-term volunteers can enhance NGOs’ performances through knowledge and expertise, increased productivity through high motivation, a focus on clear goals, and a focus on the core tasks of the organisation. The author examines how volunteer-based organizations can leverage productivity-related benefits of episodic volunteering. Episodic volunteering often has a negative connotation because it can require a lot of effort and extra hassle. This thesis shows potential benefits for productivity and how these can be facilitated.


Jonathan Rüden

MSc Business Information Management
Thesis: Charging Ahead - Predicting Optimal Charging Station Locations across Multiple Cities

Rüden tackles an important and current topic and the insights can help to advance electric vehicle usage by enlarging the charging station coverage. By encouraging car sharing customers to test the EV risk-free, their likeliness to buy an EV is increased and a baseline demand for charging stations is ensued. Not only do the findings encourage sustainability but they show how a sustainable business model can be profitable for the supplier side as well.

The thesis is practically relevant for companies that are stakeholders of charging stations, for car sharing operators, for city authorities and public bodies. The model which was developed can be filled with data from different cities and subsequently used for decision-making support.

Merle Stadhouders
MSc Business Information Management
Thesis: Determinants of Longevity of Smart City Innovation Ecosystems and Projects

Stadhouder’s thesis is practically relevant for companies given the increased importance of smart cities, circular economy and scarcity of resources. Especially cities in developing countries have to deal with challenges of sustainability.  Nowadays, many companies are interested in smart city projects. For smart city initiatives, many stakeholders (Government, Corporations, Start Ups etc.) have to be included and addressed but so far there is limited research on the longevity of smart city ecosystems. The thesis gives a comprehensive framework for smart city projects that can be applied by practitioners. The findings of the thesis can encourage a sustainable behaviour and promote smart city projects.

Nominee 3: Pam van Wanrooij
MSc Global Business & Sustainability
Thesis: The BOGO Model: A comparative case study

Van Wanrooij systematically analyses three different cases of BOGO strategies and their effectiveness for the business, non-profit and beneficiaries. It has great practical relevance as it outlines a best practice with regard to the implementation of a BOGO model for the aforementioned stakeholders. For companies the thesis provides insight on the advantages that can be derived from implementing a BOGO strategy as well as on how to design such approaches most effectively to reap the benefits. Moreover, similar models could be implemented by a diverse range of companies. That is why the thesis is thought to address a wide audience in the business community rather than focusing on a small niche.

Winner: Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirkis
MScBA Master in Management
Thesis: Variable-rate Pricing of Electric Vehicle Charging: Exploring consumer behaviour using TamagoCar app

In his thesis, Tsereklas-Zafeirkis makes use of an app to gather data on the behaviour of users of electric cars. This data can be used as input into the design of charging systems to reduce peak congestion. It addresses the imminent problem of peak-time congestion at electric vehicle charging stations. Just like morning traffic jams, neighbours and colleagues will compete to use electric car charging facilities.

Runner-up: Florian Böhm
MSc in Global Business & Sustainability
Thesis: The grain of the gods against poverty: Approaching the quinoa value chain in Bolivia and Peru with inclusive business models

Böhm explores the impact of the growing global demand for quinoa on farming practices and poverty in Bolivia and Peru. The jury said: “This is a must-read for all sustainability, supply chain and procurement professionals that work for companies that buy, use and sell quinoa, and for consumers who are interested in the farmers that grow their quinoa. It reads like a practical baseline study for organisations like IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative or other multi-stakeholder platforms that create sustainable agricultural supply chains.”


Jonas Flake
MSc International Management / CEMS
Thesis: Enabling Radical Sustainability-Oriented Innovation in Large Firms

Flake investigates how large firms can enable radical sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI) with a qualitative approach. Through interviews with managers and senior executives of large firms pursuing radical SOI, he enhances understanding of organisational conducive factors to radical SOI. It underlines the importance of the integration of an organizational focus on sustainability throughout the organization.

Patrizia Fazli
MSc Marketing Management
Thesis: Sustainability marketing communication in the beauty industry: How does the ideal sustainability advertisement in the beauty industry look like?

Companies are spending a huge amount of money on advertising and a big share of the budget is contributing to the price of the product. The research gives specific implications on how to advertise sustainability in a product to better sell it. Fazil demonstrates the desire for and ability to perform sustainable marketing in the beauty industry and shows it efficacy. The biggest problem with this is that marketing efforts does not always necessarily translate to actual sustainable practices. However, she did find that consumers are not attracted to just one sustainability label on a product; there must be at least two. This is reassuring although not definitive in terms of intentionally buying actual sustainable goods.

Adele Berthelot
MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis: Supply Chain Collaboration and Environmental Performance. A Study of Connekt Lean & Green

Although collaboration can lead to environmentally and socially responsible behaviour, this thesis focuses on the link between integrating supply chain collaboration and strong positive economic benefits, which outweigh the risks of sharing information with stakeholders. This information is very useful to Connekt Lean & Green and companies interested, able and qualified to join in on supply chain collaboration. This includes 400 companies and is therefore relevant to a large enough number of companies for it to have a high score in this section.

Winner: Tirza Voss
MSc in International Management/CEMS
Thesis: Partnering up for fair trade climate-neutral coffee

Voss researched the influence of cross-sector partnerships on sustainability-oriented innovations, and selected fair trade climate-neutral coffee as her case study. “Tirza Voss shows how cross-sector partnerships can have an influence on all aspects of sustainability, market knowledge, network building and increased sustainable innovation,” the jury said. “This is really important in today’s sustainability developments. The next step in further enhancing sustainability is not within a business or a sector but across sectors through cross-sector partnerships,” he said, adding that this is difficult, because involved parties have different histories, backgrounds, cultures and missions. “This thesis provides a solid base for parties to explore new cross-sectoral partnerships and learn from it due to the handy, comprehensive and practical checklists.”

Runner-up: Nadine Kooiker
MSc in Marketing Management
Thesis: Educating for the future: a multi perspective case study on sustainable business education in the marketing curriculum

She researched a multi-perspective case study on sustainable business education in the marketing curriculum. The jury said the thesis can be used by business schools and universities to teach incorporating sustainability into the mainstream curriculum in the most efficient way in terms of budgeting and learning outcomes. “The thesis is generally aimed at educating our future leaders, so the potential social impact is large,” the jury said. “Nadine Kooiker’s research includes strong recommendations to overcome behavioural, structural and economic barriers in a way that RSM and other business schools can move forward to further educate future leaders with sustainability knowledge, skills and attitudes.”


A.F. ten Brinke

MSc International Management/CEMS
Thesis: Made to market - An exploratory research of user involvement in radical sustainability-oriented innovations

Consumption of unsustainable products is the main driver behind sustainable solutions that can succeed only through successful commercialization. Shifting towards sustainability cannot occur without radical, system-changing innovation. Involving consumers in new product development also gives them a say in the product quality (consumer rights). Brinke provides inspiration as to when to involve customers in the development process of new innovations – and what the motives of innovation should be. Even though SMEs are studied, large established companies can learn lessons to regain innovative sustainability-oriented capacity as all companies are seeking to innovate.

Rowan Siskens
MSc Business Information Management
Thesis: Incentives for off-peak charging of electric vehicles

Siskens influences policy makers and civil society leaders in several ways, such as redefining the tax incentive to attract more environmentally driven people instead of mostly attracting business drivers which create imbalances. The findings suggest that in order to change the charging behaviour of EV drivers, a change in the financial incentive is needed which should come from the government. If implemented, the findings can mitigate a relevant environmental as well as societal issue such as the excessive demand for electricity by EV which leads to expanding the capacity of energy infrastructures and thus spending too much resources into construction. CO2 reduction is also a potential result of implementing the findings of the study.

Vincent de Wolf
MSc Strategic Management
Thesis Title: Merging social benefit and business value

De Wolf’s thesis can have great implications for firms and the reception is expected to be great for those firms producing in developing countries with dependency on raw materials and commodities. The propositions show that firms must be locally engaged, raise local income, and create awareness. For Nestlé this resulted in higher consumption of their products locally and higher appreciation of the corporation by the farmers. The thesis allows firms to see the benefits associated with such behavior and can hence lead to a change in their practices.

Winner: Maaike Antrag
MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis: Designing a take-back network for the e-waste from webshops’ customers

This study was especially conducted for PostNL managers and proves to be of major use for this company. The author strongly emphasized the importance of finding solutions that comply with legislation, that satisfy stakeholders, and that is economically feasible for PostNL. Having taken into account these three aspects necessarily increase the relevance of the study to managers. The financial structure is an example of a key point of interest that is essential when investigating solutions for the return process of e-waste; in this study, Antrag goes in very much detail as to the strength and weaknesses of different models.

It is evident that this thesis gives well-researched and pragmatic advice for this company as well as for other companies asking themselves similar questions on the return process of e-waste and in a similar legislative environment.

Runner-up: Sjaak Heuvels
MSc Global Business and Stakeholder Management
Thesis: Transitioning towards a biobased and sustainable construction industry - The case of hempbased applications in the Dutch construction industry

This thesis shows great insights into how hemp based products are doing good for the environment. Hemp based products are more permeable, more environmentally friendly, and healthier. The Green Deal will help create more working space for commercial parties to produce and apply such materials. By creating more jobs, social welfare will improve.

In addition, the construction industry is one of the least sustainable industries that exists. Moving towards more bio-based materials (such as hemp based) will have a strong environmental impact.


Michelle Engert

MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis Title: Taking an Environmental Perspective on Supply Chain Management – A Study on the German Automobile Industry

This study fills in a major gap in the literature by distinguishing the Environmental and Economic Performance of a company. This results in a more understandable analysis for managers – who tend to distinguish these aspects of operations – and hence can make them better realise the need for investments in global supply chain management (GSCM).

Additionally, the study reveals that the investments a firm makes in GSCM will lead to an improved ‘Relational Efficiency’ thanks to the increased transparency and understanding of challenges ahead that this action shows. These findings are pragmatic and can shed light on the importance of GSCM for companies as well as the positive impact this will have on their operations.

Berdien Fennema
MSc Supply Chain Management
Thesis: Less is more: an evaluation of sustainable supply strategies

Fennema evaluates the sustainable supply strategies and formulates applicable recommendations for all companies who are concerned with sustainable supply strategies. Sustainable supply strategies are critical to companies, as they would like to meet the demands of their customers and/or consumers. Moreover, they have to deal with the dependency on suppliers throughout the entire value chain. In order to maximize the advantages of sustainable practices, Fennema advises a pro-active approach in which collaboration along the Supply Chain is key. She concludes with a detailed step-by-step procedure to optimize waste prevention, which is very convenient for companies to apply.

Stephanie Maas
MSc Global Business and Stakeholder Management
Thesis: Do-in-a-day episodic volunteering as a gateway to long-term volunteering

The study researches how a great experience of (a first time) episodic volunteering can lead to long-term volunteering. Maas finds multiple factors that influence episodic volunteers to join on a longer term timeframe: (1) a positive experience during the one day event, (2) know and meet the volunteer’s expectations during that same day (3) encourage autonomy, task identity/ significance/ variety, and feedback on the task, (4) personally thank the volunteers for their work/ perform a good joint closure. Maas mostly focused on the one day volunteering event organized in the Netherlands however these findings could also be applied to other such events in the world.

SDG Insights

We’re holding 17 events, one for each of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because 2020 marks the start of a decade of action to deliver them. Deadline 2030 was announced by UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohammed.

Join us in taking action to deliver the SDGs!

Explore the development goals with our experts

We invite experts in business and management to each SDG event; they are leading practitioners as well as academics. Their presentations may help you to identify ways that you and your organisation can contribute to the SDGs.

How? The intimate settings and lively debates in our SDG Insight events are designed to:

  • trigger constructive debate
  • enable guests to exchange knowledge
  • give everyone new insights.

If you’re interested in knowing more about addressing the SDGs in business and society and hearing from different perspectives, then join us.

The events will be hosted on RSM’s campus. They take the form of a masterclass, and the presentations are followed by Q&A sessions and group discussions.

Why is SDG 5 important to you?

Previous editions of RSM-STAR Sustainability Forum

RSM STAR Sustainability Forum 2021

RSM STAR Sustainability Forum, Thursday April 8 2021

How have sustainability efforts been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Have there been opportunities for change? And what can we learn from these unusual times? The COVID-19 pandemic has affected multiple sectors and facets of society over the past year, and on the 8th of April, we delved deeper into whether this shift in dynamic could prove to be a catalyst for fundamental change, or whether it has rather inhibited sustainability efforts. 

This year’s edition of the RSM STAR Sustainability Forum, with the theme of “Sustainability in Times of Change”, took place online and was partly broadcasted from the Polak studio. The aim of the Forum was to provide a platform for critical dialogue regarding current efforts towards change, and the necessary steps needed to prioritise sustainability in the future. The event started with inspiring speeches from key-note speakers on topics relating to sustainability and the pandemic, followed by a challenging panel discussion with professionals from KPN, FrieslandCampina, Shell, NS, and Philips. Besides, the RSM-KPMG Sustainability Master Thesis Award was awarded to Florian Frenken for his research on reducing carbon footprint and costs of returns in the online retail industry. Runner up was Maurits Pluimakers with his thesis on reducing the carbon footprint in the shipping industry. Workshops followed in the afternoon, during which smaller groups of students will work with representatives from FMO, Nexio Projects, Impact Institute, Diversion, Spaak, and O My Bag to solve issues on sustainability. To wrap things up, an online networking session took place to allow students and the companies attending the workshops to interact more informally.

We hope to see you at the event next year!

RSM STAR Sustainability Forum 2019

Business for the better?

Sustainability can be economically attractive for businesses – even though the transition can be expensive – because of technology and consumer demand.

Could you implement sustainable business quickly into your future workplace, and would the change be a genuine one, or superficial? (And why do so many companies still shy away from major sustainable change?)

Has business really changed for the better? The RSM community gathered on Friday 10 May 2019 to define ‘better together’ in an afternoon full of lively debates and creativity at the RSM STAR Sustainability Forum.

The sustainability agenda has pushed businesses into a revolutionary period. While this has prompted organisations to re-evaluate ‘business as usual’ and subsequently lead to innovation, the mission to practise sustainability in business has been met with pressing criticism. Questions arise such as: Who is responsible for leading the change: corporations or consumers? How do different business sectors measure ‘positive impact’? What are the limitations of using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for sustainable business? Has business truly changed for the better?

This year’s RSM STAR Sustainability Forum put these critical questions centre stage with the aim to expand the conversation on sustainable business among students, researchers, and leading industry professionals.

In her opening speech to the audience of students and the wider RSM community, Cambridge Innovation Center’s Strategic Director of Europe Melissa Ablett expressed her excitement in hosting a student-led event on sustainability and social resilience. “We can fix the world through innovation that can be found within community and spaces [like these],” she said.  

‘We have been extracting value from society and the planet – so our profit is close to nothing’

The Forum’s keynote speaker was global ambassador of B Corporations Marcello Palazzi. He gave an impassioned address 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.

He also championed entrepreneurs as the leading innovators disrupting ‘business as usual’.

“How can we shift the capitalist system towards more positive than negative impact? Entrepreneurs can get us there!” Palazzi said. 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, he said, to profit plus impact.

Smashing sustainability clichés

Four professionals in the field of sustainable business and social resilience gathered on stage to form a panel and smash sustainability clichés.

Moderated by RSM Professor of Strategic Philanthropy and Volunteering Lucas Meijs, the panel comprised of 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 panel hosted vibrant debates that explored the sustainable clichés into much detail.

One foundational cliché was ‘it is impossible to be against sustainability’, to which all the panelists shared their own anecdotes on experiencing resistance when presenting sustainable practices. According to Mauser, sustainability is merely a term that one needs to define on their own, especially in such a polarizing political climate. Building upon this, 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.

However, Prof. Meijs and Muusse both reminded the panel that criticisms about sustainable business are not always coming from climate-deniers but from progressives as well. Millennials, says Muusse, are critical about [social and climate] justice and accountability. On a similar tone, Prof. Meijs argued that perhaps ‘sustainability’ can be seen as too conservative, referring to the keynote address regarding repairing and building up society and the planet.

Breakout sessions

Participants then attended breakout sessions in which they explored cases and real-life issues with business representatives from various industries.

Capgemini: storytelling for positive futures

Annelies Hermens is the Group Environment Lead at Capgemini. Moderated by RSM associate professor Dr Frank Wijen, Capgemini presented its business case to develop a new mobility policy for its employees to encourage the use of less polluting means of transport.

One of the main solutions to this challenge that came out of the session was the creation of a carpooling system, using electric cars. Other ideas included the strategic placements of e-bikes at key locations to avoid the use of cars.

EY: integrated reporting

Wesley Boone and Catalina Hemmink are sustainability professionals at EY. Moderated by RSM Professor of Banking and Finance Dirk Schoenmaker, key questions surrounding integrated reporting were raised including its link with the company’s ‘license to operate’ and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The outcome of this breakout session, which addressed EY’s increasing synergy between its Climate Change and Sustainability Services department with finance and accountancy, is that a ‘sustainability accountant’ will become a new profession that aims to diminish the silos between the two departments.

ING: banking for the future

Sandra Schoonhoven is Head of Sustainability at ING. Moderated by RSM project manager Dieuwertje Bosma, ING presented their business case to activate sustainable behaviour of potential house-owners that are resistant to invest on sustainable energy consumption. The challenge was tackled from three different angles: data quality, behaviour, and financial solutions.

How to deal with this business case was threefold. Firstly, in order to have accurate and useful data, a collaboration platform is necessary to combine the data from the energy label and the data about energy consumption provided by energy providers. Secondly, ING will create a framing strategy to incite optimism and opportunity among its customers. Thirdly, customers can rent out their roofs for solar panels to incentivize sustainable power generation.

Plennid: sustainable business models

Kees van Rengs, the founder of Plennid, presented his business case to make the production of mannequins more circular. Moderated by RSM’s Tom Blansjaar, the breakout teams actively discussed ‘thinking circular’ in depth. Many ideas were brought forth for this business case, including the use of 3D printing to localize production of mannequins, repurposing shredded plastic to create mannequins, and holograms to replace physical mannequins altogether.

Wolkat: strategy for textile recycling

Kimberly van der Wal is responsible for business and product development at Wolkat. Moderated by RSM assistant professor Dr Guido Berens, the business case addressed the challenges of having Wolkat’s products – clothes made with recycled textiles – succeed against its competition. One of these hurdles include the convincing potential buyers about the quality of their products. The solutions presented aims to exploit their competitive advantage: transparency. Products should be marketed that highlights their ‘expanding lifespan’.

KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award

The afternoon schedule included recognition for student research, with the presentation of the KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award to Paul RuijsMSc Global Business & Sustainability graduate from 2018, who is now a sustainable finance intern at United Nations Global Impact. His thesis is entitled Overcoming short-termism of investors, a barrier for sustainable development contributions – An explanatory research that studies to what extent companies can curb short-termism in order to foster sustainability. Runner up was MSc Supply Chain Management alumnus Annelou Ringers, whose thesis is about socially-responsible purchasing in the fast-fashion industry.

In the spirit of RSM’s mission to be a force for positive change, the Forum’s ‘College Tour’ day programme prompted self-reflection from RSM’s Dean Steef van de Velde on RSM’s role in greater society. The event was moderated by Prof. Rob van Tulder, professor of international business-society management at RSM.

RSM Sustainability Forum 2018

Students and business leaders ignite changes at Sustainability Forum 2018

Systems thinking: inspiration and business cases to challenge traditional models

Two important factors have the potential to ignite systemic change in business; responsible management and sustainable finance practices. The 2018 RSM Sustainability Forum on 13 April presented two keynote speakers and ten highly interactive workshops to crack real business cases that explored the options for businesses thinking about making the shift to a sustainable model. The Forum was hosted by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and workshops were facilitated by leaders in sustainable business.

Igniting systemic change starts the process of welcoming new business models. It’s based on the concept of systems thinking, which sees business as part of a larger system. Sustainable finance considers how investing and lending interacts with economic, social and environmental issues, and responsible management considers the roles and responsibilities of business as a global force. In her opening speech to the audience of students and the wider RSM community, RSM’s Director for Positive Change, Eva Rood encouraged the audience to start thinking in terms of systems and to become aware of the interconnectedness of the worlds’ grand challenges – whilst also having an eye for business opportunities.

The first keynote speaker was Dr Jessica Thomas, Director of Business Sustainability Collaborative, an academic initiative that connects students, faculty and the business community. She gave a passionate speech about B corporations, or companies that want to add benefit to society. ‘B Corp’ status is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee. 

The extensive assessment of companies that want to become B Corporations measures how they add and create value – not only financial value, but also societal and ecological value.

Just a day or so before the RSM Sustainability Forum, US corporation Danone announced that it had received B Corporation certification, and Jessica showed its celebratory video to the audience. This is a very exciting development and a daring move, said Dr Thomas. Many business and management students taking part in the Forum later commented that they found the idea of the B Corporation movement worth exploring more comprehensively.

Steering finance for sustainable development

Students of sustainable finance – a module in several of RSM’s master programmes – were particularly interested in the keynote presentation by Gianni Lorenzato, Senior Financial Advisor to the World Bank Group, as well as to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and to GIZ, the German federal organisation for international sustainable development.

Lorenzato explained that there is a lot of greenwashing in the field of business sustainability and responsible investment. Many companies create captivating sustainability reports, but these are effectively a marketing tool and do very little to integrate sustainability into business models.

The same is true for financial institutions; they pledge to be responsible investors but in most cases it’s a box-ticking exercise, and sustainability is no real factor in their investment decisions. Gianni’s intervention was very pragmatic; instead of rhetorically asking for financial markets to become more sustainable he explained how to steer financial markets towards sustainable solutions, particularly to the benefit of disadvantaged populations. 

As a finance professional who works with governments and non-bank financial institutions across the world every day, Gianni’s perspective was enlightening for participants. Students in particular got a real sense of how blended finance can really address poverty and climate issues in the field rather than in theory.

Award for top master theses

The afternoon schedule included recognition for student research, with the presentation of the KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award to MSc Supply Chain Management alumna Tatjana Mirosnicenko for her thesis entitled E-grocery: the effectiveness of content sharing on social media in promoting green slot choice behavior. Runner-up was MSc International Management/CEMS alumnus Thomas Behrendt for his thesis about episodic volunteering in the light of the gig economy.

Breakout sessions

ABN AMRO: Holistic overview to measuring non-financial capital

Hanna Zwietering is an investment manager at the ABN-AMRO Social Impact Fund (AASIF), which invests the bank’s own money as direct investments of between € 500,000 and € 1.5 million in social and sustainable enterprises to bring about real social change. That’s a laudable and positive principle. But the process of measuring non-financial impact is complicated and costly, because it requires access to a lot of data. For cost reasons, it might not always make sense to conduct baseline measurements at the beginning of an investment, so tracing progress can be an onerous task. Measuring financial and non-financial capital is done to provide a holistic overview of a business’ impact, and while non-financial impact is important, the prospective financial viability of the venture is key, especially at the venture capital and growth stage of investment.

The AASIF is currently one of the only funds that invests directly into social enterprises in the Netherlands. Its investments have so far proved successful and it aspires to expand in the near future. The fund intends to make investments in companies that are able to expand the general social enterprise market in the Netherlands and in other countries. The session was moderated by RSM Assistant Professor Dr Gianfranco Gianfrate.


Consultancy for sustainable production and trade aidenvironment hosted a breakout session to explore expanding into the Brazilian market using knowledge from its activities in Indonesia. Executive Director Annemieke Beekmans  explained how the company’s current activities add value for international clients by connecting information from global regulations to create a more sustainable value chain, particularly in sourcing. aidenvironment is currently focusing on building its knowledge of soya, beef, and palm oil commodities.

Participants worked in two groups to create recommendations for value propositions that could be offered to the Brazilian market. The session was moderated by RSM Associate Professor Frank Wijen.

Suggestions included:

  • aidenvironment could – other than its current internal activities – provide an innovation network for its clients by connecting academia and corporations from different parts of the world through its vast network.
  • aidenvironment should leverage current partnerships and its network to break into the Brazilian market. Rather than starting from scratch as a Dutch company, it should leverage connections with agribusinesses such as Cargill or Bunge, or even Dutch universities, to build legitimacy with local players and build its reputation.
  • aidenvironment could establish a pilot office in Brazil. Rather than going ‘all-out’, this more sensible option would limit its risk and use less capital in comparison to building a fully fledged office. The company should ensure the office is well-located for transport to the Amazon and for its important stakeholders.
  • aidenvironment should use local people as well as leveraging international knowledge. Participants recommended aidenvironment copy its Indonesia model that employs mostly local people; this helps build initial legitimacy as well as establishing long-term status in the eyes of local companies and government. It avoids the syndrome of ‘Westerners telling us what to do’ and the workforce can allow aidenvironment to better understand the local norms and non-formal regulations which govern business in Brazil.

ASN Bank: New metrics for judging investments

ASN Bank aims to drive sustainability in the financial world by only investing in responsible businesses and projects that contribute to a sustainable society such as wind energy, solar energy and social housing. Many of these projects help to combat climate change by generating renewable energy or conserving energy.

ASN’s start-up accelerator Voor de Wereld van Morgen (For the World of Tomorrow) supports projects that play a social, sustainable or cultural role. The accelerator has supported 595 start-ups including Fairphone, an ethically produced smartphone; and Seepje, which makes plant-based washing and cleaning products.

Two representatives of ASN Bank responsible for its sustainable investment portfolio, Roel Nozeman, Senior Advisor Biodiversity, and Emiel van Zwet, Account Manager for Financing Renewable Energy Projects led the session to devise future projects that might achieve systemic change and help ASN achieve its goals for climate neutrality and biodiversity. The session was moderated by RSM Assistant Professor Guido Berens.

Participants proposed using new metrics for judging investments, and suggested providing house-owners with advice and guidance for making their houses more sustainable. They suggested more intensive collaboration with parties like Vandebron (a locally sourced renewable energy supplier in Rotterdam) to support renewable energy, and the use of life-cycle analysis (LCA or cradle-to-grave analysis).

An increasing number of industries are seeing their own impact on biodiversity, and as a result, bank clients ask their banks to pay the same level of attention to these issues. ASN can still grow in this regard, through the participants.

ASN’s response to the suggestions was very positive, and the extended discussion in the room went beyond the information given in the presentations.

a.s.r. vermogensbeheer: Difficult comparisons

The breakout session led by Jos Gijsbers, Senior Portfolio Manager and Raquel Criado Larrea, Senior Portfolio Manager at investment fund management company a.s.r. vermogensbeheer addressed how four large, Dutch companies –  Unilever, Reed-Elsevier, DSM and AkzoNobel – should be ranked according to their impact on Sustainable Development Goal number 13: Climate Action. The challenge? Use only the information published in the respective companies’ annual reports. In fact, the variety of qualitative information in annual reports makes it difficult to compare. The session was moderated by RSM’s Associate Professor Irma Bogenrieder

It’s impossible to directly invest in SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals), but many companies make an effort to contribute towards SDG 13 (climate action); the four companies under scrutiny in this session are included in this group.

During the breakout session, both of the groups ranked the four companies identically for their impact on SDG 13 climate action, based only on the contents of their respective annual reports:

  1. Unilever
  2. DSM
  3. AkzoNobel
  4. Reed-Elsevier.

And while both groups produced the ranking in the same order, the way in which they came to their decisions differed. The first group used three criteria:

  • Transparency greenhouse emissions (bonus points if reported as a percentage change with baseline, because this is even more transparent)
  • Accountability with regard to future investments
  • Plans for climate action in terms of investments for the future and the level of detail of these plans.

The second group used three different criteria:

  • Timeframe of planning (short term plans versus long term plans)
  • Proactiveness on the company’s contribution to SDG 13
  • Transparency of reporting was deemed to be the least important criteria, because companies can still be sustainable even if they don’t report it.  

EY & Robeco: Real benefits from integrated reporting?

The breakout session led by Valerie Sydry, Assurance Professional at EY and Guido Moret, Active Ownership Specialist at Robeco was moderated by RSM Associate Professor Steve Kennedy and explored current approaches to – and dilemmas in – integrated reporting, which is a broad-based framework for business and investment decisions that are long term, inclusive and with purpose. The speakers were concerned particularly with the six types of capital.

RSM’s Dr Steve Kennedy said companies should understand the process of creating value. Guido Moret explained the different investment strategies such as those implemented by Robeco that are responsible, sustainable and have impact. Valerie Sydry showed the internal alignment of organisations within integrated reporting.

The panellists asked the audience at the session to address three topics of integrated reporting, and answered participants’ questions through the process:

  • Does integrated reporting offer real benefits for information provision over the alternatives? Do stakeholders, and in particular investors value it?  Most participants thought not because there are some credibility issues. Transparency shows trustworthiness. Investors need tangible results.
  • Does integrated reporting support organisations’ internal changes towards sustainability? Participants were sceptical about the potential of integrated reporting to support internal changes. Involvement is important, and the people involved are important, so communication is important, and so is organisational structure and alignment.
  • What is the connection between integrated reporting and societal value? Integrated reporting is important for societal value, but there was discussion on whether it was ‘all talk’ rather than a sustainable action.

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN): Schools and food systems

Jordania Valentim, Partnerships Manager and Herbert Smorenburg, Senior Manager Netherlands Office  (and recipient of an RSM Distinguished Alumni Award for his work at Unilever) work for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to fight malnutrition through partnerships with public and private sectors. The workshop presented a food systems challenge in Ethiopia for participants to solve using their business knowledge, and was moderated by RSM’s Positive Change director, Eva Rood.

GAIN focuses on excluded populations and the urban malnourished using the ‘Dutch diamond’ approach that involves government, knowledge institutions, business, and civil society organisations.

The case presented a challenge to help a business development manager for the ingredients division of an international dairy co-op. In this business case, the co-op has been asked to help the Ethiopian government to improve the local dairy sector, starting with a dairy programme in schools.

Ethiopia has 100 million citizens and a growing GDP. Its main source of income and employment is agriculture, which produces 41 per cent of GDP and employs 80 per cent of the population, the vast majority on smallholdings. Ethiopia has a severe malnutrition problem but has a high number of cows per capita; milk is a nutrient-dense food, scientifically linked to reduction of stunting in children.

However, cows have a low milk yield due to poor quality feed, and the cold chain transport network is poor. The agricultural sector is highly controlled.

After two hours of consultation time, three teams pitched their proposals to the workshop.

Team One addressed society and government interests by proposing that children become dairy ambassadors in their families, and dairy co-operatives should facilitate milk plans by employing local women. The pitch included investments in education and building small co-operatives with families and encouraging milk consumption to build a self-sustaining system, with initial funding from international donors and government.

Team Two proposed a ‘Get Smart Milk’ initiative for schools that could be sold to government at a low price to create the market and subsidised by NGOs. Growing demand would kick-start local supplies provision as well as increase sales for dairy co-operatives.

Team Three proposed asking for funds to invest in factories that take locally sourced milk and transform it into yoghurt, which is equally nutritious as milk but has a longer shelf life. It could be distributed to schools as a nutritious drink by adding whey, or yoghurt could be sold, and an educational programme about its health benefits and how to cook with it would involve parents. Profits would be reinvested into the system.

Gemeente Rotterdam: Transforming schools

Ard den Outer, a Strategic Advisor at the municipality of Rotterdam’s city development department led the session and outlined the city’s plan to transform 572 elementary school buildings into sustainable buildings. Participants discussed options for finance and cash flow from multiple contributors, as well as the preferred approach. They also learned more about how governmental organisations operate and what they do regarding sustainable development. RSM associate professor Dr Maciej Szymanowski acted as a moderator of the session.

The City of Rotterdam’s sustainability programme works on a healthy and future-proof Rotterdam. This includes healthier air, more green space, dry feet, sustainable buildings, cleaner energy at lower costs and more jobs in the city, port and industry. Transforming school buildings will also improve the learning environment because Rotterdam’s size and industry means it contributes up to 20 per cent of the Netherlands’ CO2 emissions; the municipality feels responsibility for addressing this. Such a national impact also the city can create a considerable positive impact with a shift towards more sustainable projects.

Regarding funding, the shared fund model – suitable for sustainability projects – impressed some participants. Here, both the schools and the municipality receive the funding but also share the same risks, making it an attractive model for partnerships of two (or more) kinds of partners. The model supports collaboration and engagement, and it could be that other areas such as Den Haag could join the fund too. Yet such close collaboration can also be a potential for conflict. The Rotterdam schools fund will be based on a similar funding model for social housing activities that already exists on a national level.

Participants argued that the optimal financial model depends on regulations, laws and the economic environment. These factors may vary, so the optimal financial model is not a static decision. But regulations have been stable for the past few years, explained Ard den Outer, and will probably remain so. Participants still agreed that the shared fund model was the most suitable for this project, but spent a short time considering new investment models, including blockchain.

Next Nature Network

Peterson and Control Union (P&CU) is 100 year-old family-owned, non-listed international company with a long-term vision and a global network of independent service companies offering sustainable development services from its workforce of 4,000 people. It operates throughout the supply chain, in agriculture, energy, forestry, sustainability and textiles, and its activities include logistics, quality, risk management and sustainability label certifications. Consumers buy not from the farmer but from a store, and farmers need to be able to show consumers they are sustainable, which is the part of the process facilitated by Peterson and Control Union in more than 200 programmes for fertilisers and fishing for example, as well as cotton.

This breakout session was led by Peterson and Control Union’s Business Development Director Werner Euler and Junior Talent Manager Anoek Meesters, and was moderated by RSM Professor Finn Wynstra.

The business case presented to the breakout workshop was set in the cotton industry, but its principle could apply to other agricultural industries. Cotton is produced globally, processed in the East, and traded as final product to end-consumers in the West. The new 'conscious consumer' struggles to obtain sustainability details about the products, and traders and producers find it hard to obtain suppliers of materials that comply with these demands. Participants constructed a business case that covered treatment of raw materials, exploring technologies and how to strengthen the business.

Manufacturers respond to consumer demands by developing voluntary standards for sustainability. Peterson and Control Union measures the deviations of these sustainability standards.

The workshop participants split into two groups to consider the business case for sustainable textiles and clothing from two different views; the challenge from the cotton farmer’s perspective, and from the retailer’s perspective.

The group considering the business case from the retailer’s perspective developed the idea of the ‘conscious QR code’ that links to the products origins; where the product comes from, and what standards it meets. P&CU already has the data and the technology. Participants assessed that such an innovation would raise awareness for sustainability and would make participating producers more popular. Costs have not yet been ascertained but it could be piloted.

It would be essential to gather data from the whole market and not just from P&CU clients. That means opening up the platform for competitors’ use – which would help to ensure there are no gaps in data gathered from the whole production. Would this be wise from a business perspective? It could be beneficial to have such transparency from producers being allowed to add their own data to the platform because P&CU would be bound by client confidentiality. The alternative – for every business to have their own platform – would not have the same potential for success because it would allow gaps in quality and layout, which would be confusing for consumers.

The second group of participants considered the farmer’s perspective and came up with the idea of geo-consulting to address farmers’ information deficit; this includes information about harvest and yield, any water/irrigation regimes and pesticides used.

P&CU already has access to this information, and by combining satellite data and farmers’ own field observations, P&CU could communicate optimum activities to the farmer; this is information to which farmers in developing countries don’t often have access, but with it, they could reduce costs and become more efficient. The scheme could be funded by the World Bank.

P&CU has already tried consulting on an agricultural level using drones over banana fields in the Philippines; the business model results in a payment for P&CU when the farmer becomes more successful, and such schemes usually work with organisations such as the World Bank.

True Price: Real price of sustainability

Social enterprise True Price devises open-source methodologies to measure the sustainability of products and services across value chains. It helps organisations quantify, value, and improve their impact on society. Reinier de Adelhart Toorop, Project Manager and Associate Roland van Keeken led a case discussion session that explored the practicality of sustainability, and how to calculate the real price of sustainability. The session was moderated by RSM lecturer Thijs Geradts.

The case presented to the breakout session involves petrochemical firm AkzoNobel and its pulp and performance chemicals. In this business case, the firm has long-term sustainable goals but is under pressure from activist shareholders to produce value in the short term. It looks at financial, natural, human, and social capital and the entire value chain, and attaches economic value to other types of capital to be able to judge the impact of the product. Participants listened to four proposals for intervention and considered their impact on financial profits, natural capital, effectiveness and feasibility. The four interventions were to source bio-based methanol, substitute natural gas for hydropower, efficient use of electricity, and using low footprint sulphuric acid.

Teams considered the proposals’ environmental impact and how well they fit with AkzoNobel’s general strategyas well as return on investment and level of risk.

Three teams each gave a pitch for their preferred option, and participants reported they had learned more about the calculations involved in making such decisions and how to determine the value of natural capital. And they also learned that a pitch benefits from a declaration of the result at the beginning, to grab and keep the audiences’ attention.

The outcome of the pitches was that a focus on efficiency rather than investment in this case creates the most value for economic and natural capital, although other options expose the company to less risk and would present a better way to preserve or enhance the firm’s reputation.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 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. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

RSM Sustainability Forum 2017

Sustainable business models explored at RSM Sustainability Forum 2017

How far have companies come in making the shift to sustainable business models? Around 200 students, alumni and practitioners gathered to find out at the RSM Sustainability Forum on Friday 31 March 2017. Among the highlights of the event, which was held at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), were keynote presentations by Mark Bras, manager of BMWi, and Thomas Rau, visionary entrepreneur and architect and founder of Turntoo and Rau Architecture.

Of RSM's three big annual forums, the RSM Sustainability Forum is the only student-organised and implemented event. Hosted by Sustainable RSM and MSc GBS STAR, this fifth anniversary event set the bar high once again with presentations and breakout sessions with managers from some of the world's largest companies, who explored 'business models for sustainable development'. A highlight was the announcement of the winner of theRSM-KPMG Sustainability Award, which went to MScBA Master in Management graduate Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirkis.

Facilitating the seven breakout sessions were Michel de Goede, a strategy consultant at Alliander; Bert Bernolet, founder and director of Solar Without Frontiers; Fred van Beuningen, director of Clean Tech Delta; Dorus Galama, co-founder of Gerrard; Nanning Jacobs, founder of Tuk Tuk Cartel; Fokko Kroesen, environmental manager at KLM with graduate intern Remona van der Zon; and Marianne de Bie, senior advisor of corporate affairs with Simon Theewes, manager investor relations at Schiphol Group.

Sustainability central to RSM's mission

“Sustainability at RSM is not just a story, it is a part of our business model,” RSM career development coach and event moderator Dorothy Grandia told audience members in her opening remarks. Dean Steef van de Velde echoed this sentiment in his welcome presentation. RSM’s new mission to be a force for positive change is already “embedded in the school's community and activities but will more prominently drive our agenda,” he said. “Businesses want to solve grand challenges. It’s only logical that our mission should be to enhance management practices by being a force for positive change.”

Sustainability-relevant links

'Stimulating Sustainability' Teaching Fund

BMWi: future is electric, shared and autonomous

“We plan to go down in history as pioneers of mobility,” Marc Bras, manager of BMWi, the car giant's innovation sub-brand, told participants during his keynote presentation. BMW has built its success on big engines, he said, but the company has been shifting its focus to its core brand of joy and fun, together with sustainability. “We want more than evolutions,” he said. “We want revolution.” Launched in 2011, BMWi focuses on developing eco-friendly urban electric cars. Among the first to market is the BMWi3, which is 95 per cent recyclable, produced out of carbon fibre, recycled plastic from PET bottles, wood, and recycled aluminium cans. Bras: “What's next for us? Autonomous cars. Shared cars is a new business model for the future: selling a fleet of cars to a group of people. These are the future of mobility.”

Sustainability is optimising a system that is broken

“The problem we have now is the sum of every business model we have had until now,” the second keynote speaker of the day, Thomas Rau, told audience members. Last year, Rau was rated among the Netherlands' three most influential architects and one of its top five visionaries in sustainability. “Sustainability is just optimising a system that is already wrong,” he said. “If we want change, we need new business models where responsibility and power come together. We need a complete transformation of the system.”

All materials need an identity

In the closed system that is planet earth, everything is useful, Rau said. “Waste is just material without an identity. And all material is a limited edition. We need to write them down not write them off. All materials used in buildings and products must have an identity and rights. We need to know exactly what and where everything is. We can then use buildings as mines.” Three weeks ago his company launched a library for this data, the 'madaster' – which embodies a radical new way of thinking about and managing the earth's resources.

Using buildings as mines

“New business models should make products that are also a service,” Rau said. In his new terminal design for Schiphol airport, Rau embraces the concept of 'building as machine'. The end result is that his terminal design was half the price of a regular terminal to build, and with double the capacity. “Let's think of better solutions, not how to optimise,” he said. All the buildings he designs are energy positive. He has also designed the most sustainable bank in the world. Before designing it, he looked at the “abundance of ugliness” that was the old building, and decided to “use it as a mine”. He said 92 per cent of the new building was made from recycled materials from the old building.

Forum participants also learned more about sustainability in business from experienced speakers from start-ups and industry leaders during break-out sessions. 

Investment ideas for Alliander

Alliander's Michel de Goede, strategy consultant and RSM OneMBA graduate, shared with participants the breadth of the challenges they face as an energy network company in shifting towards sustainable business models. In answer to the case question of what their best investments for sustainability should be, participants proposed big renewable plants that would use the grid to transport energy (renewable energy plants are also more feasible than decentralised energy rooftop solar panels due to economies of scale). Alliander could also consider facilitating neighbour-to-neighbour energy trading, and invest in influencing regulation to foster the transition towards solar energy. 

'Integrated reporting' at Schiphol Group

The Schiphol Group was represented by Marianne de Bie with Simon Theewes, two of the three team members responsible for 'integrated reporting' at the Schiphol Group. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has responsibilities to many stakeholders, from the people residing near the airport to employees and the environment. Sustainability is thus a core component of Schiphol's strategy. One example of how the Group implements this is by imposing heavier landing charges on noisy planes that emit more CO2 and by incorporating all sustainability initiatives in its annual report to encourage the board to view its strategy from a holistic perspective.

KLM to become 'most sustainable' airline?

Environmental manager for KLM, Fokko Kroesen, spoke about KLM's sustainability plans, which include fleet renewal, operational efficiency, sustainable biofuels and offsetting. KLM has partnered with Sky Energy to become a pioneer in the field of sustainable biofuels. But the challenge for KLM, one shared by all of the aviation industry, is the difficulty prioritising investments in R&D in a market defined by very strong competition and a focus on prices. A major outcome from the brainstorm session, co-facilitated by Remona van der Zon, was that partnerships were critical for KLM to achieve any headway towards sustainability: partnerships with government, customers, competitors and manufacturers in the industry. It was widely agreed that KLM could gain a competitive edge in the market if it became “the most sustainable airline in the industry” through partnerships.

Management challenges for Solar Without Borders

Solar Without Borders is a non-profit organisation that aims to bring solar energy to disadvantaged communities in Africa. Founder and director Bert Bernolet outlined his business model Smart Kiosks, in which a central house in the village is fitted out with solar panels, batteries, regulators, solar lamps and chargers, and is managed by a kiosk keeper. People pay for the energy they use. Around 170 solar kiosks have now been set up in Togo alone, providing more than 40,000 people with light. However, shop owners have too much autonomy and are not easily motivated. How do you develop good leadership in shop owners and build the system further? The solutions discussed in the break-out session provided input that will be used in further discussions in RSM's IBA, BA, MBA and Executive MBA programmes and eventually, to facilitate student trips to the sites in Africa. 

Solar without Borders is an organisation that aims to match interesting business opportunities with real-world needs. Many villages in Africa (and across the world) still lack a basic, reliable supply of energy important for access to basic human rights/needs: hospitals, schools, etc. However they do already have an abundant source of energy: solar power. Solar without Borders aims to tap into that source and help local villages understand and take advantage of solar power. This is no easy feat, however. A brilliant idea is in place, but it hinges on the motivation and willingness of the people on site. This case discusses the human resource and leadership challenges of operating in a culturally different context, specifically to foster the right balance of motivation to power a fundamental change effort.

Clean Tech Delta

Participants in the Clean Tech Delft break-out session were challenged to think of ways to optimise the business model of Clean Tech Delta, and come up with whole new business models. Clean Tech Delta creates and supports public private partnerships that “close the implementation gap between an idea and a sustainable business” in the regional clean tech sector. Fred van Beuningen, director of Clean Tech Delta and RSM MSc alumnus, mapped out the challenges for the energy and clean-tech sectors in the local area, including reducing emissions in and around Rotterdam, which is one of the world's largest petrol-based areas. Currently, the business operates on a triple helix model which includes the knowledge of universities, private actors, and government bodies. A better design, said participants, would be a quadruple helix, that included users (the market). Participants suggested that there should also be clearer value propositions for members, and measurable outcomes of all collaborations.

Vending Machines for Gerrard Street

Dorus Galama, co-founder of Gerrard Street, a Dutch start-up that aims to develop circular consumer electronics, asked participants to develop a plan for how Gerrard Street could expand its business into other countries and cities. The fundamental challenge for the company pertains to its size: significant changes or innovations can only really be made once its customer base has grown. By consensus, participants agreed that the best idea to come out of the brainstorming session was that of distributing headphones and parts of headphones via vending machines operated by entrepreneurs or dedicated customers who would serve as ambassadors for the company.

Clearer mission needed for Tuk Tuk Cartel

Tuk Tuk Cartel is a new NGO, powered only by volunteers, that aims to create social change in impoverished areas with projects in sustainability, education and innovation. Co-founder and business development manager Nanning Jacobs outlined the organisation's goals and business model, which sees 100 percent of funding going towards projects. Attendees were excited to brainstorm solutions to the case problem of how to ensure a proper match between volunteers and projects. However, much discussion centred on the viability of the organisation's business model. The organisation should streamline its focus and direction, said participants, and have a method for measuring impact if it is to increase funding and make more impact. Many saw the organisation’s projects, such as donating clothes to Syria, as a temporary solution, and that researching the needs of locals should serve as a basis for the design of projects.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 research-based 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 carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at


Keynote: Marc Bras, Manager of BMW i

Marc Bras has been working with BMW in one capacity or another since 2002. Today he is the manager for BMWi – an all-encompassing, groundbreaking concept for sustainable mobility. BMWi represents visionary electric vehicles and mobility services, inspiring design and a new understanding of premium that is defined by sustainability. His background in marketing, finance and international business, and his drive to – literally – accelerate sustainability in the world of luxury sports cars, is helping create the future. Marc holds an MSc from Maastricht University (2003), executive qualifications from Insead, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business.

Opening: Professor Steef van de Velde, Dean Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Steef van de Velde is a Professor of Operations Management and Technology and Dean of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). His research interests lie in the areas of operations excellence, service operations, and (behavioural) supply chain management. He has published in the leading academic journals including, among others, Management ScienceCalifornia Management ReviewOperations Research, Mathematical Programming, INFORMS Journal on ComputingIIE Transactions, and Journal of Scheduling. Professor van de Velde holds an MSc in Econometrics from the Erasmus School of Economics and a PhD in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Eindhoven University of Technology. He has served as Dean for RSM since September 2011.

KPMG-RSM Sustainability Thesis Award Presentor: Jerwin Tholen, KPMG

Director at KPMG Climate Change and Sustainability Services, Jerwin Tholen has over 17 years of sustainability consulting experience. Currently focused on cost benefit analyses, CSR strategy, sustainable soft commodities and supply chain management, he has been part of KPMG since 2002, and became Associate Director of KPMG Sustainability in 2007. Mr. Tholen became the Director of KPMG Climate Change and Sustainability Services in October 2015. He holds a drs. in Policy, Management, the Environment and Spatial Planning from Radboud University.

Keynote: Thomas Rau, Founder Turntoo

Thomas Rau is entrepreneur, architect, innovator and visionary. His motto is ‘guided by the future’: his decisions and actions are not determined by what is deemed possible now, but by what is necessary for the future - and RAU Architects have been on the forefront of designing environmentally conscious buildings since 1992. Thomas promotes the use of renewable energy in the built environment and seeks to address the increasing worldwide resource scarcity through his company Turntoo, which focuses on closing material loops and accelerating the circular economy. Ranked in the Top 5 Dutch players in sustainability (Trouw), Dutch Architect of the Year 2013, and recipient of the ARC13 Oeuvre Award for his widespread contribution in both promoting and realising sustainable architecture in the last 20 years, Thomas sees opportunities where others see shortages.

Moderator: Dorothy Grandia, Assistant Director RSM Career Development Centre

Dorothy Grandia is Assistant Director of the Career Development Centre at RSM; and Faculty member of the Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations, where she concentrates on the development and delivery of leadership communication programmes for open Executive Education as well as in-house initiatives at such organisations as the European Central Bank and ING. In 2015 Dorothy delivered a TedX talk on leadership and confidence, ‘Authenticity is a Dangerous Word’. Using her experience in the political arena, on the operatic stage, and in executive programmes she helps people develop their communication range and increase their influence. Her education includes Asian Studies and Development Economics at University of Texas at Austin.

Breakout Sessions

Alliander: Michel de Goede, Strategy Consultant

Session moderated by Dr. Yashar Ghiassi-Farrokhfal, Assistant Professor of Energy Storage Systems in RSM Department of Technology and Operations Management.

Michel de Goede is a strategy consultant with Alliander, covering topics from IT to risk & security, from startups and smart cities to valuation and post merger integration. He has leveraged his 30 years of experience in general and IT consulting at Alliander for the past 7 years. As a leader in new technologies – smart grids, electric vehicles, IoT, and renewables amongst others – Alliander has launched various new business initiatives in which operations remain as cost effective and efficient as possible. Michel operates and advises at this exciting crossroads, between traditional grid operations and new business ventures. Michel holds a Global OneMBA from RSM (2011).


Clean Tech Delta: Fred van Beuningen, Director

Session moderated by Dr. Steve Kennedy, Assistant Professor of Corporate Sustainability and Climate Change in RSM Department of Business Society Management. 

Fred van Beuningen has a professional history that encompasses work as a general manager, CEO and board member for international companies, as well as experience as an entrepreneur. He is director of Clean Tech Delta, a public private partnership to promote the regional clean tech sector. His interests include the role of business leadership in driving sustainability, and next level innovation practices. He is a member of the Board of the Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business. Fred’s strong interest in technology, talent and business model innovation drew him to the next innovation super cycle: industry 4.0, robotics and AI, and its relevance for important global issues. Fred holds an MSc from the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) and an AMP from Insead.


Gerrard Street: Dorus Galama, Co-Founder

Session moderated by Dr. Salla Laasonen, Assistant Professor in RSM Department of Business-Society Management.

Industrial designer Dorus Galama is the co-founder of Gerrard Street, a Dutch start-up that aims to develop circular consumer electronics. Inspired by his own love of music – through which he wore out 2 to 3 sets of headphones a year – Dorus and the Gerrard Street team decided that would be an ideal product to start. The team developed a completely modular headphone, for which they charge a monthly fee (including maintenance and upgrades). Dorus is responsible for marketing and strategic alliances, including developing partnerships (for example with CJP) and managing relations with such brand ambassadors as Dj Isis and Janne Schra (Room Eleven). Dorus holds an MSc in Strategic Design from T/U Delft (2014).


KLM: Fokko Kroesen, Environmental Manager

Session moderated by Thijs Geradts, Lecturer and PhD Candidate in RSM Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship.

Fokko Kroesen is corporate environmental manager at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of environmental management. He joined KLM Corporate to manage Environmental Strategy in 2005 and is currently responsible for KLM’s sustainability policy on biofuels and climate issues. After an MSc degree in Chemistry and postgraduate courses on Environmental Sciences in 1991, Fokko Kroesen worked at the University of Groningen and as consultant in Utrecht on environmental performance and certification projects at companies and governmental bodies. Before joining KLM Corporate he implemented ISO 14001 at KLM Engineering & Maintenance, and acted as environmental representative for KLM Ground operations at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. 

KLM: Remona van der Zon, Graduate Intern CSR & Environmental Strategy joins Mr. Kroesen to co-facilitate the KLM case presentation.

KLM is a leading player in the field of sustainability within aviation. KLM stimulates the development and market of sustainable biofuels, and buys emissions units when passengers choose to pay a bit extra to compensate their flight’s CO2 emissions. Advancements in aircraft technology, operational improvements, sustainable alternative fuels and market-based measures should reduce CO2 emissions from international aviation. However, these measures are not sufficient to achieve the target of carbon neutrality from 2020 onwards. So how could the existing challenges to carbon neutrality be tackled? What kind of CO2 reduction projects are attractive for passengers of KLM, and promote sustainability in developing countries? How can we deal with the food versus fuel dilemma in biofuel production? And to what extent could KLM contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals?

Schiphol Group: Marianne de Bie, Senior Advisor Corporate Affairs

Session moderated by Dr. Paolo Perego, Associate Professor in Management Accounting and Control in RSM Department of Accouting and Control

Background in the hospitality, travel and airline industry. Worked abroad in several positions. Entered employment of Schiphol in 1989, started in the Strategy and Phyical Planning departments. Since 1996 working for the communications department, as Senior Press Officer, Head of Internal Communications and sinds 2009 as Senior (strategic) Advisor. In charge of strategy and communications issues, editing corporate publications, international relations and activities. Member of the Annual Report Team together with senior managers of the corporate treasury and control departments and with corporate responsibility and senor strategy advisors.

Schiphol Group is an airport company with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as its main airport. With 63.6 million passengers in 2016, Schiphol is the third largest airport in Europe in passenger numbers. Schiphol embraces Integrated Reporting and for its Annual Reports over 2014 and 2015 Schiphol has received several prestigious awards.

Simon Theeuwes, Manager Investor Relations, Schiphol Group joined Ms. de Bie in co-facilitating the session.

One of the greatest challenges faced by corporations across the globe is how to measure, report and create value. There is an increasing recognition that value creation is only partially captured by a company's financial statement. Intangible assets (like brand value, reputation, or human capital) or externalities (like carbon emissions or other forms of pollution) are often not recognised as material aspects of value creation and left out a company's financial accounts. This breakout session will be centered on the concept of Integrated Reporting, an international initiative set up to advance the integration of financial and non-financial performance reporting and value creation. Schiphol Group will give an interactive presentation to illustrate and critically assess current challenges faced in the design and implementation of 'integrated thinking'. An interactive session will be built around questions like:

• What are the major drivers and obstacles behind the adoption of IR?

• How does IR affect the concept of a company's value creation, especially for its social capital?

• What is the impact of IR on external parties, i.e. assurance providers, financial intermediaries and firm's stakeholders?

• What are possible strategic implications of IR on macro-level societal challenges, as well micro-level local communities?


Solar Without Borders: Bert Bernolet, Founder

Session moderated by Dr. Hannes Leroy, Assistant Professor Human Resource Management, in RSM Department of Organisation and Personnel Management

To promote solar energy without borders, you have to be a social entrepreneur without limitations. So Bert Bernolet, Founder and Director of Solar Without Borders, first began his drive to equip developing nations with solar energy…with a drive: In a 4WD vehicle from Belgium to Togo, to install 1 solar panel and 2 lamps in the tiny hospital of the village Agou-Avédjé. Bert founded Solar Without Borders in 2008. The non-profit installs solar energy systems in developing countries, enabling local communities and villages currently without electricity to take advantage of one of their greatest free resources: the sun. He is creator of Bar Solar, Founder of the cooperative organisation Energy Kiosks, and winner of the Nyrstar Foundation Award (2012) and the ING Solidarity Award (2014) for his development and implementations of new solar technologies in countries such as Togo, Benin and Cameroon.

Solar without Borders is an organisation that aims to match interesting business opportunities with real-world needs. Many villages in Africa (and across the world) still lack a basic, reliable supply of energy important for access to basic human rights/needs: hospitals, schools, etc. However they do already have an abundant source of energy: solar power. Solar without Borders aims to tap into that source and help local villages understand and take advantage of solar power. This is no easy feat, however. A brilliant idea is in place, but it hinges on the motivation and willingness of the people on site. This case discusses the human resource and leadership challenges of operating in a culturally different context, specifically to foster the right balance of motivation to power a fundamental change effort.

Tuk Tuk Cartel: Alain Buffing, Founder

Session moderated by Dr. Luca Berchicci, Associate Professor Entrepreneurship and New Business Venturing in RSM Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship

Alain Buffing is the founder of Tuk Tuk Cartel, a new kind of NGO. He established Tuk Tuk Cartel in 2016, after discovering that there were no NGOs catering to people who not only want to volunteer abroad, but who also want be part of a strong and innovative community. Through adventurous volunteer projects with organisations in developing countries, and a community built around generous world-changers who focus on sustainability, education and innovation, Tuk Tuk Cartel is reinventing the non-profit wheel on a global scale. Alain has an International Business degree from AMSIB and a certificate from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme.


KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award

A highlight of the RSM Sustainability Forum is the presentation of the KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award. For the 11th year, KPMG has sponsored and awarded a recent RSM master graduate, the annual Sustainability Master Thesis award; honouring research that combines academic excellence and business relevance related to the management of sustainability. The award is a cash prize of €1,000, and the runner-up receives €500.

Award criteria

To qualify for the KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award, each thesis subject must be related to social and ecological sustainability, and have achieved a mark of at least 8.5 during its defence. Theses from the past academic year are reviewed; an RSM panel arrives at a shortlist of five theses chosen for a combination of academic excellence, socio-environmental impact, business relevance and originality. The final winner is determined by a select jury of external leaders working in the field of corporate sustainability.


2017 Winner: Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirakis

Thesis title: Variable-rate Pricing of Electric Vehicle Charging; Exploring consumer behaviour using TamagoCar app

Angelos’ drive towards sustainability is evident throughout his academic and professional career. Following his Master in Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Athens (2013) (during which his work on Green Innovation in Shipping was published in international journals and presented at conferences), and an exchange semester at the Technical University of Munich, Angelos started the RSM MSc in Business Administration and Management (2015-2016). In order to translate his research activity into tangible societal impact, Angelos took a Business Innovation Internship in Eneco, where he contributed to the smart connection of renewable energy with the automotive industry. Since 2016, Angelos has been part of the prestigious Graduate Development Programme in Global Supply Chain Management at Toyota Motors Europe.

2017 Runner-Up: Florian Böhm

Thesis title: The grain of the gods against poverty

Florian is a purpose-driven and internationally-oriented cum laude graduate of the RSM MSc in Global Business and Sustainability (2015-2016), for which he acted as Master Ambassador and Class Representative, and as a volunteer member of KPMG Sustainability Thesis Award committee. He took his BSc in Business Administration at WWU Münster (2015) with an ICS Additional Diploma in Business Ethics (2015). During his time at RSM Florian co-founded several sustainability initiatives, including Erasmus Sustainability Days. Florian was formerly part of Institut Cultura 21, spreading his passion for sustainability. In the role as Co-Organiser and Fundraiser, he was active in helping to clear cars from the inner city of Cologne to make space for sustainable initiatives. Florian will soon start in the position of Business Development Manager in the Graduate Program of the global business and technology leader Cognizant.

Nominee: Adèle Berthelot

Thesis title: Supply Chain Collaboration and Environmental Performance. A study of Connekt Lean & Green

Adèle Berthelot grew up in Brussels where she obtained the European Baccalaureate. She then pursued the Bachelor in International Business Administration at RSM, and graduated from RSM’s MSc in Global Business and Sustainability (Cum laude) and MSc in Supply Chain Management (2015-2016). She wrote her second Master thesis during her research internship at Connekt, a Dutch network organisation focused on logistics and environmental sustainability, and creator of the Lean & Green certification. Adèle was a co-founder of the Erasmus Sustainability Hub, amongst other extracurricular activities during her years at RSM. Adèle recently started working as a Supply Chain Consultant at ToolsGroup, one of the most experienced providers of demand analytics, inventory optimisation, and supply chain planning software, in Barcelona.

Nominee: Patrizia Fazli

Thesis title: Sustainability marketing communication in the beauty industry

After finishing her bachelor of business administration at the University of Manheim in Germany, Patrizia Fazli decided to pursue RSM’s MSc in Marketing Management from which she graduated cum laude. She has always had a strong passion for marketing and the beauty industry. She completed a sixth-month product marketing internship at L’Oréal in Germany. Patrizia then became a research assistant for the marketing research department at RMIT University Melbourne, where she contributed to research about how brand structure influences organisational performance. Based on her personal interest and experience, the focus of her thesis lies on sustainability marketing communication in the beauty industry. Now, Patrizia is a junior product manager at L’Oréal in Germany.

Nominee: Jonas Flake

Thesis title: Enabling Radical Sustainability-Oriented Innovation in Large Firms

Jonas is a cum laude graduate of the RSM MSc International Management/CEMS programme (2014-2016). During his exchange period at Keio University in Japan, he was appointed CEMS Head Ambassador. Jonas’s fascination for technology and innovation led him to pursue a business internship at the European Space Agency in Germany and a research internship at Head Communications in The Hague during his studies; while his already-strong interest in sustainability and global affairs was further sparked by RSM’s engaging Climate Change Strategy course, taught by Dr. Steve Kennedy. Jonas is currently working as a Consultant at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.

Read about 2016's KPMG-RSM award winner and nominees here.

13:00 - 13:30

Participant registration - Forumzaal lobby
Coffee/tea/juice and light bites - Forumzaal ca

13:30 - 13:35 Welcome - Moderator Dory Grandia - Forumzaal
13:35 - 13:45

Opening -  Dean Steef van de Velde,
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University 

13:45 - 14:30 Keynote - Marc Bras, Manager of BMW-I, BMW Group Netherlands
14:30 - 14:45

KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award - Jerwin Tholen,
Director of KPMG Climate Change and Sustainability Services

14:45 - 15:15

Coffee/tea  with fruit smoothies and special anniversary cake

15:15 - 16:50

Breakout sessions with leaders in sustainable business - Congress Centre
Transition time after session  (10 min.) back to Forumzaal for Keynote

17:00 - 17:55 Keynote -Thomas Rau, Founder of RAU Architecture and Founder of Turntoo
17:55 - 18:00 Closing Words - Moderator Dory Grandia
18:00 - 19:00 Networking Drinks with hot hors d'oeuvres

We are delighted with your interest in the 5th Annual RSM Sustaianbility Forum.

If you have any questions related to elements of this year's event. Please let us know.

Please send an e-mail to Event Coordinator, Joey Johannsen at

RSM Sustainability Forum 2016

13:30-14:00 Participant registration - ECE Lobby
14:00-14:05 Welcome by moderator, Muriel Arts - 11th floor 
14:05-14:15 Opening by Dean Steef van de Velde, Rotterdam School of Management
14:15-15:00 Keynote Plenary by Truus Huisman,
Vice President Sustainable Business & Communications, Unilever Europe
15:00-15:15 KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award by Jan van de Herik, KPMG
15:15-15:35 Break
15:35-17:00 Breakout sessions with leaders in sustainable business - 12th Floor
17:00-17:30 Interactive session: pub quiz - 11th floor
17:30-18:30 Networking drinks - 11th floor


RSM Sustainability Forum 2015

Socially and environmentally sustainable business models require novel business processes, models, and products. So how do you innovate for sustainable business?


The 3rd Annual RSM Sustainability Forum on Friday, 10 April 2015

The RSM Sustainability Forum featured leaders from business, academia and society who demonstrated how different types of innovation can pave the way to sustainable business. Our speakers explored the interface between innovation and sustainable business by showcasing best practices – and as always at RSM, lively debate and discussion led the day!

Who we met

The audience attendees included managers, consultants, and some of the brightest young minds at RSM studying forward-looking business practices.

What we experienced

  • Inspiring examples from frontrunners in sustainable business, from startups to multinationals
  • Participation in plenary debates and breakout sessions
  • Networking with 200 participants
  • Presentations from leading practitioners in the field
  • Cutting-edge learning from RSM's top academics in the field of sustainable business innovation

A feature presentation of each annual Forum is the 2015 KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award.

Make A Difference Case Competition: Innovating for Sustainable Rotterdam

The greater Rotterdam area is an urban region with almost one million inhabitants. The region hosts three major universities (Rotterdam, Delft, Leiden) and has an extensive cluster of industrial activities. Rotterdam’s Vision 2020 has the ambition to develop a more agile and liveable city that can compete on a global scale. Innovation and sustainability are central to this ambition.

Target initiatives

Two initiatives stand out in this respect. First, the “South Wing” project seeks to render the Rotterdam region economically more competitive. The region has an ageing population, heavily relies on fossil-fuel-intensive industries, and faces limited collaboration among major cities. In order to regain a competitive edge vis-à-vis cities such as London, München, and Paris, the project aims to develop innovative initiatives that enhance both economic performance and a sustainable living environment.

Second, the “waste separation” project seeks to increase Rotterdam’s post-consumer recycling rate. Most of the city’s inhabitants do not separate their household waste. They have little space in their apartments to accommodate separate bins, dislike having multiple waste containers in their proximity, and experience little social control to separate waste. This also counts for students. Therefore, the municipality aims to develop a project that makes Rotterdam students effectively separate their post-consumption waste. 

Case Competition Day

On 2 April, Make a Difference 2015 Case Competition identified the two most promising initiatives on economic revitalisation and waste recycling.

Best Presentations

On 10 April, at the RSM Sustainability Forum, the audience heard the top two proposals and actively selected the best presentation to advance.


Team Gemeente Rotterdam was selected the audience favourite.

View Team Gemeente Rotterdam's winning proposal

Team members: (photo left to right) Lukas Brauschwieg, Rexin Singotani, Stefanos Stasinopoulos

12.00-13.00 Participant registration
12:00-13:00 Networking lunch 
13.00-13.05 Welcome by moderator, Prof. Henk Volberda, RSM
13.05-13.15 Opening by Prof. Steef van de Velde, Dean, RSM
13.15-14:00 Keynote Plenary by Dimitri de Vreeze,

Member Managing Board DSM and Chairman Supervisory Board DSM Nederland BV

14:00-14.30 Finals: Make a Difference Case Competition
14.30-14.55 Break: coffee and tea and transition to Breakout session rooms
14:55-16:15 Breakout sessions with leaders in sustainable business (7 parallel sessions) 
16.15-16.30 Break
16.30-16:45  KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award by Jan van de Herik, KPMG
16:45-17:45 Panel discussion: Demystifying sustainable innovation
17:45-18:00 Wrap-up and closure by moderator, Prof. Henk Volberda
18:00-19.00 Networking drinks and refreshments


RSM Sustainability Forum 2014

The 2nd Annual RSM Sustainability Forum offered more than inspiration; speakers from business and academia offered real proof of concept for sustainability, demonstrating the pragmatic and profitable possibilities of new business models and innovations demanded by a world of shrinking resources and growing population.

Held on Friday, 25 April 2014, and co-organised by Sustainable RSM and STAR, the Forum attracted around 180 corporate and alumni relations, staff, faculty and students of RSM. The day was moderated by Marga Hoek, CEO of De Groene Zaak (the Dutch Sustainable Business Association) whose book ‘Doing Business in the New Economy’(Vakmedianet 2014) was awarded Management Book of the Year 2014, and featured a Welcome by Pauline van der Meer Mohr, President of the Erasmus University Rotterdam Executive Board.

> Download Marga Hoek's presentation slides

The business of sustainability was presented in a keynote by Kees-Jan Rameau, Managing Board Eneco, as well as break-out sessions in which speakers from BAM, Cradle to Cradle, Enviu, Eosta, Philips and Unilever shared specific ways that their organisations mainstream sustainability into such areas as finance, strategy, innovation, marketing, supply chain and entrepreneurship.

Even the refreshments were sustainable: catering was provided by Kromkommer, the business launched by RSM Distinguished Alumni Award winners Jente de Vries and Lisanne van Zwol, which ‘upcycles’ the cosmetically imperfect produce and bakery goods that would normally end up in the bin, into delicious food.

Operationalise sustainability

“I applaud RSM for choosing the topic of mainstreaming sustainability,” said Pauline van der Meer Mohr, President of the Erasmus University Rotterdam Executive Board, in her welcome to the Forum. “Too often when we think about sustainability, we think about ‘nice to have’- but mainstreaming is something entirely different. We have to operationalise sustainability.”  She offered the five ‘must- haves’ as outlined in the Vision 2050 report, an agenda for sustainable business created by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, whose President and CEO Peter Bakker is an alumnus of EUR). These are (1) incorporating the costs of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water, into the structure of the marketplace; (2) doubling agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used; (3) halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests; (4) halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems; and (5) Improved demand-side energy efficiency, and providing universal access to low-carbon mobility.

Sustainability a core strategy at Eneco

The ‘operationalising’ of sustainability in the energy business was presented in Kees-Jan Rameau’s engaging keynote, “Sustainability as a Core Strategy,” in which he outlined  Eneco’s  strategy for moving from a centralised, fossil-fuel dependent model to a sustainable, decentralised future.  While many energy companies will find it a “bumpy ride” in transforming from fossil to sustainable energy over the coming years, he noted that at Eneco “it all starts with a vision.”  The business case for renewable energy is clear: not only are fossil fuels finite, with an unstable market price and a deleterious effect on the environment, but the cost of sustainable energy is descending dramatically while new business models will create jobs and national and international economic growth. This new environment requires a transition for Eneco, said Rameau:  “We are no longer a seller,” he said. “Now we’re a service provider with a new business model,” in which the customer has a central role as both a consumer and producer of energy, and which demands a ‘team’ approach where government, NGO’s, business, shareholders and the consumer must work together. “Now is the time to invest in renewables,” he said.

> Download Kees-Jan Rameau's presentation slides

Break-out sessions

Mr. Rameau’s keynote was followed by six parallel break-out sessions. In these smaller groups, Forum attendees worked hands-on with leaders of small, medium and large businesses which have already mainstreamed sustainability into their business model. The line-up included William van Niekerk, Director Corporate Social Responsibility for Royal BAM Group NV with an interactive presentation about sustainable finance; Diana den Held, Strategist and Senior Researcher RSM Cradle to Cradle Chair (the first Academic Chair in Cradle to Cradle in the world) with a group project on sustainable strategy; Wouter Kersten, Innovation Manager of Enviu, with a lively interactive discussion about sustainable entrepreneurship; Michael Wilde, Sustainability and Communications Manager of Eosta (an organic produce company) who presented the company’s many ways to reach and motivate the new consumer through its label Nature & More;  Martijn Douven, Indoor Segment Manager, who presented such new business models as ‘Light as a service’ in a session about sustainable innovation; and Frederieke Koopman (Brand Development) and Stefanie Wolff (Category Management) of Unilever, who outlined a sustainable supply chain direct to the company’s consumers.

> Download Royal BAM Group BV presentation slides

> Download Eosta presentation slides

KPMG awards top RSM Master theses

One highlight of the RSM Sustainability Forum was the presentation of the KPMG-sponsored Sustainability Master Thesis Award. Since 2006, KPMG has been presenting the award, which aims to honour research that combines academic excellence and business relevance on a topic related to the management of sustainability. This year the five nominees each made a ‘home video’ to describe their interest in their thesis topic:

The award was introduced by chair of the jury Jan van den Herik, Director Strategy & Innovation KPMG. The background on the jury's assessment of each thesis was provided by Tim van Kooten, a longtime leader of communications and issue management for such companies as Ogilvy & Mather and Shell. In addition to Mr. Van den Herik and Mr. Van Kooten, the jury comprised  Elfrieke van Galen, Partner at The Rock Group, and Jan Bom, Editor in Chief of P+ People Planet Profit magazine.

Mr. Van den Herik presented the top award, including a €1000 prize, to Sophie Gaarenstroom, with the runner-up award, including a €500 prize, to Britt de Lang.

Living in interesting times

The wrap-up of the RSM Sustainability Forum was facilitated by Professor Rob van Tulder of the RSM Business-Society Management Department.

Mainstreaming is needed for a “system in crisis,” the current economy and ecology, he said. As a business school, RSM is helping to create the change to mainstreaming sustainability through its executive education and research, amongst other means.

Ultimately mainstreaming sustainability is “an opportunity, and a necessity,” said Professor van Tulder. “New leadership is needed – we need you!” he added. “These are indeed interesting times, and my invitation to you is to continue this conversation about mainstreaming sustainability here at RSM.”

> Download Prof. Rob van Tulder's presentation slides

RSM Sustainability Forum 2013

Sustainability Forum 2013: Partnering for Sustainability

13.30 - 19.00h, Inntel HOTEL, Rotterdam 

Partnerships between public sector, private sector and civil society have become increasingly prominent during the past years. The three sectors are acknowledged to be interdependent, and the objectives of one sector can often only be achieved in partnership with participants from the other sectors. Partnerships are supposed to create a ‘collaborative advantage’ by generating additional knowledge and resources.

Participate in inspiring workshops, given by internationally renowned companies like Unilever, Cargill, KLM, Eneco and PostNL who have designed partnerships to accelerate towards (more) sustainable business.