SDG finals at MSM: pitching sustainability solutions for businesses


On Friday 1 October, it was time again for the MSM SDG finals. Five groups with a mix of Full-time MBA and Master in Management students were matched with leading companies to create solutions for sustainability challenges at these companies. On Friday it was time for each team to pitch their solution in front of a jury.

Through the yearly SDG Challenge, organized by Soapbox, MSM aims to have its students experience how important the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be in real-life, in real companies with real challenges.

The growing importance of the SDGs in the business world is clear to many of the students, as Master in Management student Laura Geven explains: “Sustainability is an expanding topic in the business world. It is important for a business to keep moving with the times, otherwise it will stay behind. Therefore, practicing new areas of thinking and ways of working is important to maintain a successful business frame. This opportunity is provided by the SDG Challenge.”

On behalf of his team, Full-time MBA student Manas Ranjan Swain adds: “SDGs are the way forward for a sustainable planet, not only for us but also for future generations! SDGs are the best guidelines that people, and businesses should follow for a more sustainable and happier society and the planet. The MSM-SDG Challenge was an excellent opportunity for us to do our part for a sustainable planet and society to a certain extent. Knowing about the whole process of the challenge (which involved visiting the companies, understanding their sustainability-related issues, doing the brainstorming and ideation sessions with the team, and formulating the recommendations for the company development) attracted us a lot as we were sure it would give us the practical experience of the SDG implementation in large businesses. By being part of the SDG Challenge, not only can we contribute to the company's better future but also, consequently, to society.”

About the MSM-SDG challenges
This year the following challenges have been addressed:

  • Municipality of Maastricht: What role can the Municipality of Maastricht play in supporting sustainable practices among the companies in Maastricht and surrounding areas? And in what way could the SDGs play a part in this?
  • Healthy Society: How could we improve mental health on the working floor and how could we communicate these benefits in order for companies to invest in it?
  • N + P Group: How do we make clear (to government and citizens) that N+P's alternative fuels make a significant contribution to reducing the CO2 footprint of major industries, so that our solutions are placed on the political agenda, obtain a product status and are included in climate objectives to meet the Paris-agreement goals?
  • Weir Minerals: How can Weir Minerals drive sustainable behavior with the supplier base that we use?
  • Actemium: What benefits does having an inclusive and diverse working force have for our company and how could we prove this?

Sprint Days
To prepare the student teams for the finals, a ‘sprint day’ was organized during which the student consultant teams visited their business partner to work together on the challenge. Laura, who was part of the team working with the N+P Group, found the sprint day refreshing: “Having the opportunity to once again meet people while making a company visit in person rather than online was taken with open arms. The N+P Group were very welcoming and displayed interest in each idea presented. Being a student, this was energizing to experience. Having the collaboration of Joris van Santen (Soapbox) and Jonathan Lucas (Manager Marketing and Communications N+P Group), made the day light and time went by quicker than we realized.

Manas was part of the team working for Actemium. The team also experienced the sprint day as very valuable: “The excitement and enthusiasm were high among all the members of the team during the sprint day. On the sprint day we all felt not as guests at Actemium but as if we were already part of Actemium for a long time. We want to thank Actemium for the warm welcome and hospitality. They helped us a lot during the sprint day and facilitated us in all the requirements.

The finals
After an energetic and fun afternoon with great presentations and a vibrant atmosphere, it was time to declare an official winner. Even though all teams were considered winners, having impressed the jury with their valuable solutions, there was only one team that could call themselves the official winner of the MSM SDG challenge 2021: the Weir Minerals team!

However, that does not mean that the other companies are not considering to implement the solutions provided by their team. Laura’s team provided the solution of the Trash to Treasure Campaign for N+P Group with the aim to increase awareness among the general public of the N+P Group initiatives with the goal of reaching political awareness. The campaign would be executed through multimedia marketing which included the Virtual Reality experience of the waste to value concept. A solution that certainly raised the interest at N+P Group, as Laura confirms: “Our team was happy to hear that we are invited back to the company to further brainstorm ideas and the implementation of our suggested solution.”

The solution provided to Actemium was focused on giving the company more visibility amongst different talent pools from the ones that it has been getting talent from, so that it can attract and retain more diverse talent. In addition, the solution focused on attracting more young diverse talent with an engineering background and increasing the number of female employees across technical and management positions. ”Actemium really liked some of our solutions and was excited to share them with other business units. They indicated that they would work on it and implement some of the solutions,” the team members proudly explained.

Learning outcomes
Apart from learning the real-life business challenges of the SDG’s, taking part in the SDG challenge provided more valuable learning outcomes for Laura: “It was a challenge in itself to work with a company participating in an industry outside my knowledge spectrum or background. However, this also provided a great learning opportunity of what N+P Group does and the impact they are creating. I have learned that each person has a strength in knowledge within their own experiences, therefore it is important to maintain an open mind when listening to other's insights of their industry.

The team working for Actemium also considered the SDG challenge as an enriching learning experience: “It was a great practical experience to consult a multinational company for SDG-related improvements. It was great to know how businesses are really serious about SDGs and want to improve their work environment. Definitely, this whole experience has strengthened our knowledge regarding SDGs and given us the confidence to manage SDG-related consulting projects with companies.”

On 2 December 2021, a team of Full-time MBA and Master in Management students will represent MSM at the national SDG challenge.

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