Alumni Day 3 April 2018

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Click on the images to get an impression of this succesful event.

The challenge: build a better world

As every year, the Erasmus School of Economics Alumni Day on April 3rd dovetailed with the EFR Business Week’s opening congress. ‘Be the change’ was this year’s relevant theme. Today’s society and business environment are changing rapidly. Perhaps even more important, visiting students who are future entrepreneurs and CEO’s were called upon to think about sustainability and the decline of the environment. The reason is simple: we’re getting to a point where taking action is crucial.

American-Dutch comedian Greg Shapiro – known as the voice of the famous ‘The Netherlands second’ Arjan Lubach video about Donald Trump – was an amusing kick-off of the day, with no shortage of Trump jokes. Not a coincidence, because Trump is as good a reason as any to want to be the change. First speaker was Anne Hettinga, CEO of Arriva, which is one of the congress sponsors. He explained how a transport company can represent change by introducing electric vehicles, or by giving more employers permanent contracts. Just dare to do things differently, based on an inner motivation to do good, and you will succeed, his speech in a nutshell advised.


The keynote speaker of the day was next: former president of France, François Hollande. He currently chairs the Foundation La France s'engage which support all kinds of projects and companies working to increase safety and making social actions profitable. From the hands of the EFR, Hollande received the World Leader Cycle Award 2018, the award for prominent leaders who stand out through their actions in the field of politics or society. Hollande’s way of handling terrorist attacks in France during his presidency was addressed, as was his success of bringing together the citizens of Paris after the attacks, instead of dividing them. The former president also spoke about the four ‘revolutions’ that need to be taken into account at this time: climate change, the digital revolution, the revolution of mobility and the challenge of making society safer. A vital cooperation of citizens and corporations is needed to make things better.

Belgian Karel Lannoo wrapped up the first section with his speech about political risks in Europe. Europe needs crises in order to advance, he stated. Nevertheless, the EU needs to communicate more effectively and become more accountable. Reliable data and and think-tanks are crucial to this process, and Lannoo himself is part of one.

Insects and mushrooms

During parallel sessions, students and alumni had the opportunity to choose their next speaker, such as Save the Children CEO Pim Kraan and KPN Telecom’s chief information security officer Jaya Baloo. Several CEO’s of large Dutch companies and NGOs attending the congress made it relevant for students as well as alumni. Speakers were also available for small talks during the Innovation Food Market in the university’s C-hall. It was the place to taste bitterballen made with mushrooms instead of meat, chocolate with insects, vegan sushi and bites made of seaweed. The food market aligned with the theme, since the most substantial change we can make every day is, after all, with our knives and forks.

Leadership or bottom-up

The second part of the conference was dominated by the more urgent questions: how can a big company or enterprise change when it languishes in its comfort zone? Who will demand change as long as a company makes good profit? Can companies change at all – or, as the former head of Greenpeace, Paul Gilding, suggested: if they can’t, how soon will they be replaced by new ones? And since we’re running out of fossil fuels, what’s next? Which companies will stand, and which ones will disappear? Will the markets dictate change in the end, because the people, the consumers, the employers, will demand change? Can change come from traditional leaders or will it be a bottom-up movement that is going to make the difference?


During the last plenary closing session some interesting and urgent conclusions were made. ‘It is not only about volume, but more and more about value these days,’ said Paul Smits, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam. He advised students to inform their boss of the change they would like to see, and to always discuss values. Leen Zevenbergen, founder of B-Corp Europe (B-Corps are for-profit companies certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency) put it this way: ‘Find your passion, and make it work. Eventually change is inevitable.’ He concluded the conference with a grand task for the audience: ‘Whatever you do, build a world that is better than it is now.’ |

More information

Around 100 Erasmus School of Economics alumni of all countries attended the animated, cheerful dinner afterwards at the Erasmus Paviljoen. 

Click here to find an overview of the programme and keynote speakers.