Embracing the Sustainable Development Goals - A Master thesis on circular music festivals


Sustainable development, business ethics, CSR and responsible management have been in the core DNA of Maastricht School of Management (MSM) since its inception. Not only is it clearly at the heart of MSM’s vision, mission and values, but it is also propagated by the students as they journey through the MSM experience, the passionate and international MSM staff and faculty, MSM’s international partner institutes and the corporate partners that share MSM’s vision for ‘working together for better global management’.

This is a first in a series of articles highlighting how MSM as an institute, our students and alumni contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. In this article, the spotlight is on Gabriele Suares, an MSM Master in Management alumnus.

A Master thesis on circular music festivals
While studying the Master in Management at MSM in Maastricht, Gabriele Suares got inspired on the topic of circularity. “Studying economics, having a background in music and getting more and more interested in sustainability, circular music festivals seemed the perfect topic to combine all three of my main interests at one time: economy, music and environmental awareness,” Gabriele explains. This formed the breeding ground for Gabriele’s Master thesis Going green: An explorative study of the practices and motivational drivers behind circular music festivals in the Netherlands.

Born in Italy, Gabriele moved to Berlin to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in audio engineering. After completing his Bachelor, he worked in the music industry as a songwriter/producer and audio technician before moving to the Netherlands to study at MSM. At the same time, his girlfriend was studying environmental science in the UK. This ‘European’ context added an extra dimension to Gabriele’s growing interest in circularity: “I was learning more on the topic while studying my Master in Management at MSM and at the same time I was able to compare the status of the transition towards circularity in different European states: the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and Italy.”

Distinction between sustainability and circularity
When asking Gabriele about the most valuable take-away of his thesis, he has a clear answer: “That is the clear distinction that I discovered between sustainability and circularity. While becoming sustainable means that a particular link of the chain wants to become greener, to become environmentally conscious and basically to survive in the long run, to become circular means that all the interconnected links in the chain must become sustainable to make the whole chain zero-waste and to 'close the loop'. There is so much interdependence between all the entities involved that it is much more difficult for circularity to happen than for sustainability. For example, monoculture of soybeans destined to make recyclable cups (sustainable) are destroying the biodiversity of a particular rural area (unsustainable).”

Festivals as small-scale test labs for smart cities
Apart from the obvious benefits of festivals becoming circular, Gabriele sees another big advantage: “Since a festival is confined both spatially as well as temporally, you can immediately see the direct positive effects of implementing a circular mindset and sustainable technologies. In this sense, as one of my interviewees mentioned, the festival can be a small-scale test lab for the smart cities of the future.”

Surprising statistics
The statistics of Gabriele’s thesis were quite surprising. In his findings, the top 10 - 20% of festivals in the Netherlands are doing a terrific job. They are the forerunners of the country and additionally they are playing an important pioneering role in the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, the rest of the industry lags far behind. “Only 16% recycle, 14% offer unbottled free water and 11% encourage the usage of e-tickets to reduce paper waste,” Gabriele explains. “The most common practice emerged was the hard cup system, in which you get a reusable hard plastic cup for the whole festival, with 19% of the festivals using this”.
For his research Gabriele reached out to three festival organizers in Maastricht, namely Social Events, Inkom Festival (introduction week festival for Maastricht University) and the 9-day WE Festival. “Furthermore I included two festival organizers in Amsterdam: DGTL, which is THE circular festival in the Netherlands and in the world, and ID&T, which is a huge organization behind festivals such as Tomorrowland, Def.qon, Amsterdam Open Air, Milkshake, Valhalla and more.”

Contribution of circular festivals to the SDG’s
Gabriele sees circular festivals contributing to several SDG’s: “Circular festivals are contributing directly to the achievement of the SDGs, especially SDG #12 “Responsible consumption and production”. However, circular festivals could also help in attaining a positive effect on SDG #8 “Decent work and economic growth”, SDG #11 “Sustainable cities and communities”, SDG #7 “Affordable and clean energy” and SDG #13 “Climate action”.”

Taking the thesis research to the next step
While Gabriele’s research was initially in the loop for funding by the Dutch government, this did not work out. The team of researchers that will work on taking the thesis research to the next level, is now searching for funding sources within Europe. About his role in this research, Gabriele is not sure yet: “The research will start in January 2020 and I am still discussing with the researchers to define my role in it. I would love to help, but I acknowledge that I am not as experienced nor skilled in writing a scientific research as a professional one would be.”

Hope for the future
Gabriele’s hope for festivals is to become an example for other industries in circularity: “The transition towards circularity is long and complicated, but is feasible and reaps great benefits. The amount of counseling and guidance these festivals could give to, for instance, ecological urbanists or circular supply chain companies is invaluable.”

Gabriele’s Master Thesis Going green: An explorative study of the practices and motivational drivers behind circular music festivals in the Netherlands was supervised by Jakomijn van Wijk, PhD, Associate Professor Sustainable Business at MSM. Her research focuses on processes of institutional change towards sustainability in organizations and industries, partnership networks in global value chains and entrepreneurship for inclusive development.

Sustainable development and circularity in MSM’s education programs

Learning about sustainable development is an important part of MSM’s education programs. In the Master in Management program, students conduct a real-life group company project focusing on Sustainable Development. In our MBA programs Global Responsibility is a core module which consists of courses in Corporate Responsibility & Ethics and Managing Cultural Diversity. In addition, MBA students can choose to specialize in International Business Development & Sustainable Development, which includes courses on sustainability in the global economy, green and inclusive innovation, international Human Resource Management, fair trade and global value chains.

In our Executive Education portfolio, we offer specific programs focusing on Sustainable Business Development. In the Corporate Social Responsibility course, participants explore how companies can meet stakeholder expectations in a manner that balances social, environmental and economic goals. In the Value Chain Analysis course, the promotion of green and inclusive value chains is a core subject.

Capacity building solutions for sustainable development

Besides being a business school offering management education, MSM is also a management development institute offering capacity building solutions for clients around the world, with the concerted goal to enhance sustainable economic development. Circularity and sustainable development are the core topics in a specialized diploma program that MSM is currently developing with its long-term partner in Peru, Centrum Graduate Business School. Driven by the increased demand in the Peruvian market for diploma programs with topics, such as the circular economy, development of a sustainable HR strategy, impact investment and social innovation, MSM has set-up this custom made training to assist Centrum Graduate Business School in the development of this Specialized Diploma on Sustainable Development Management. The development of this training is funded by the Nuffic Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP).

This is just one example of MSM’s capacity building projects with the aim to contribute to sustainable development. Other examples can be found here.

MSM faculty focusing on sustainable development

MSM’s faculty members are passionate about what they do and tenacious in finding solutions to the toughest business challenges with the aim to contribute to sustainable development. Our faculty members publicize regularly on topics related to circularity and sustainable development.

Please find some examples of recent publications below:

van Wijk, J., Zietsma, C., Dorado, S., de Bakker, F., & Martí, I. (2019). Social innovation: Integrating micro, meso and macro level insights from institutional theory. Business & Society, 58(5), 887-918.

Stanišić, M., & Nedeljković, J. (2019). Regulatory framework of forestry for climate change mitigation and adaption. In W. Leal Filho, U. Azeiteiro, A. Azul, L. Brandli, P. Özuyar, T. Wall (Eds.), Climate Action. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

van Wijk, J., & Meerns, A. (2019). Initial Business Case Ideas on Sustainable Tourism, Home Textiles, Apparel, and IT-Outsourcing in Egypt; Macadamia Nuts, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, and Fish in Kenya; and Sustainable Tourism in Uganda. Utrecht, Netherlands: Fair & Sustainable Consulting.

Limpens, G., van Dijk, M. P., & de Boer, D. (2019). Telephone Farming - A new approach for agricultural development, a project with the Latia Resource Centre, Kenya (MSM Working Paper No. 2019/03).

van Dijk, M. P. (2018). Smart Eco-Cities Are Managing Information Flows in an Integrated Way: The Example of Water, Electricity and Solid Waste. In M. Dastbaz, W. Naudé & J. Manoochehri (Eds.), Smart Futures, Challenges of Urbanisation, and Social Sustainability (pp. 149-168). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Maastricht School of Management: Working together for better global management

As a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), MSM strives towards making the world a better place through responsible management. MSM aims to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) in all its activities: the international capacity-building programs, the custom made programs, research activities and in its education programs. To learn more on how MSM contributes to the SDG’s, click here.