Driving Systems Change - Corporate leadership for the SDGs

26-27-28 May 2021, 15:00 - 17:30 CET 

Beyond business as usual

Progress on sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals is too slow – it’s difficult to integrate SDGs in core business. How can corporate leaders step up to the challenge and drive systems change? What can we learn from successful leadership examples and role models? In three sessions we discuss business models, principles and practices, and leadership for stepping up to the challenge of driving systems change.

We think it is possible. In this conference we will exchange experiences, showcase tools and concepts, and learn from leaders in the field. Together we can drive systems change. 

Explore the framework

Right now, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the best agenda available to share ambitions and measure progress towards the achievement of a large number of common goals, and there is a framework that can help businesses to deal with them.

Conference paper Enhancing Corporate Contributions to the SDGs

This three-day symposium explores the framework that can help businesses. Every day from 15:00 to 17.30 CEST, you can access keynote presentations from experts, consultants and leading thinkers in international business, panel discussions, and breakout sessions. You will discover relevant tools and discuss next steps. All parts of the programme are free and open for anyone wanting to participate.

Register for the conference

Speakers include Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University; Peter Bakker, President & CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; Robert Metzke, Global Head of Sustainability of Philips; Prof. Mette Morsing Head of PRME in the UN Global Compact; Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland; Paul Polman, Co-Founder of IMAGINE; Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate 2014; and Prof. Rob van Tulder of RSM and Academic Director of the Partnerships Resource Centre.

You can find the schedule for each of the three days on the conference registration webpage here.

You can choose whether you want to register for the entire event or for particular sessions. It’s free to attend, but please do attend the event once you have registered. Failure to show up is at the expense of someone else’s participation, as the number of tickets is limited.

Wednesday 26 May – The Strategic Challenge

How to translate the SDGs in concrete business models aimed at inclusive and sustainable growth. Starting with the role of corporations in the Decade of Action and focussing on the role of partnerships, the connections between SDGs and principles of sustainable business. Speakers include: Jeffrey Sachs (Professor at the Columbia University) and Peter Bakker (President & CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development).

Thursday 27 May – The Operational Challenge

How to translate the ‘nobody left behind’ principle of the SDGs in concrete practices that can be implemented and measured. This session is all about implementing business models to realise the ambitions. This includes talks on making transitions as a company, how to measure progress and the role of business schools in training and teaching new leaders. Speakers include: Robert Metzke (Global Head of Sustainability of Philips),Mette Morsing (Head of PRME of UN Global Compact), and Esko Aho (former Prime Minister of Finland).

Friday 28 May – The Leadership Challenge

How can business contribute to peace building and planetary resilience? Leaders have the power and responsibility to lead the transition, but what leadership qualities are required for this? A conversation between leaders in civil society and business on tackling big societal challenges and the role of future leaders. Speakers include: Kailash Satyarthi (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2014) and Paul Polman (Chair of Imagine & former CEO of Unilever).

Hosts and supporters

This free online conference is hosted by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Partnerships Resource Centre, with support of Garrison Institute International and the European Platform for Compassionate Leadership.

Conference Programme


This conference is part of the project Managing the transition to sustainable business models: the role of leadership and measuring shared value creation (with project number 438-14-901 of the research programme Sustianable Business Models) which is (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).