National SDG-challenge: MSM team wins the Audience Award


A team of MSM’s full-time MBA and Master in Management students recently joined the national SDG challenge. In total, 16 teams of 16 Dutch universities teamed up with leading companies to work together on a SDG-challenge of the company. During the final at Paleis Soestdijk on 2 June 2022, all teams presented their solutions in front of a professional jury and the team with the biggest potential impact was chosen as the winner.

The MSM SDG-challenge
The MSM team worked with Cefetra Group, a Rotterdam based company and a market leader in the supply of quality raw materials for the feed, food, and fuel industries. The company supplies more than 50 different raw materials and trades about 21 million metric ton of raw materials per year, mostly delivering commodities to the European market.

“We had one of the most complex challenges as stated by the jury of the SDG Challenge and even the company,” said Radhika Ralhan on behalf of the team. “The new EU Regulation aims to minimize forest degradation by promoting consumption of ‘deforestation-free' products. As a major economy and consumer of deforestation linked commodities such as soy, cocoa and palm oil, the EU will now allow verified, physically segregated supply of soy onto the EU market from origination countries. The scope of the challenge was to trace this in the case of soy being imported from origin countries Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The solutions had to immediately address the issues of traceability to establish proof of products that are Deforestation Free. It also involved geo-localization of coordinates of land plots, collate adequate data and establish proof of verification. In addition, our solution had to align all stakeholders, especially the farmers in the local countries in order to make the solution feasible on the ground.”

The solution
The challenge required a scalable, feasible and measurable solution that will bring exponential impact on the lives of the small-scale farmers bearing the brunt of climate change and biodiversity loss. In addition, the solution should be ready for the new regulations. The team created an Impact Ecosystem comprising of two key solutions with the aim to connect practice and policy. The first solution was a product-oriented solution entailing the creation of a Traceability Digital Dashboard that would mitigate the traceability issue for the deforested farmers and farmlands. “We give credit to the Supply Chain Course and the Sustainability course taught at MSM, as these taught us how to come up with this solution,” Radhika states. In terms of dashboards, the team also analyzed the existing traceability dashboards of cocoa, palm oil in our research, identified gaps, addressed them and developed the Digital Traceability Dashboard for Soy Farmers.

“Subsequently, we had to address the issue by making it encouraging and feasible for farmers to be identified on the dashboard.  We therefore created a process-oriented solution in form of a Multi-Actor Platform. The Multi Actor Platform (MAP) aims to bring together stakeholders reflecting the 3 Ps contours of sustainability - People, Planet and Profit. This means that we involve financial institutions and even the EU, to provide key incentives for the farmers and provide certifications to the farmers through on ground verifications,” Radhika explains.

The grand final
“After presenting our solution to the jury and other teams present, we were announced as the Audience Award winner. It was really humbling to get the acknowledgement of the other teams for our solution. In addition, it was also a proud moment when the jury announced we were the runner-up for the jury award. They acknowledged the impact our solutions would have on the farmers,” Radhika proudly speaks of the team’s performance.

She adds however that it is maybe even more important that, despite the complexity, the team managed to create a feasible and impact-oriented solution for Cefetra. “The company indicated that they are looking forward to start working on the implementation of our solution.”

Radhika also highlighted that participating in the national SDG-challenge increased the professional skills of the team members. “Creative Leadership, Systems Thinking and Disruptive Mindset are a few of the most sought out skills required, given the contemporary challenges faced in the world. This challenge enabled us to utilize all these critical skills with a system thinking approach that would be beneficial for any company, solution, or problem that we would be required to work on.”

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