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Sustainable Business Battle: consultancy through green-tinted glasses

The enthusiastic finalists of the Sustainable Business Battle proved that sustainability and business can go together well. Fire in their bellies, they pitched their green solutions, ranging from an Energy Race app for DUWO to a cycle parking facility covered with plants at the Bio Science Park.

The auditorium at Minerva buzzed with energy on Friday 23 June as the final of the Sustainable Business Battle kicked off. In the seven weeks that preceded it, ten teams of students pored over five different business cases from companies in the Leiden and The Hague region. The aim: to find an innovative, achievable but sustainable solution. Consultancy through green-tinted glasses therefore.

The winning team answer questions from the jury during their pitch.

Sustainability is a hot topic

The final was opened by Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, alumna of Leiden University and Minerva, and member of the Sustainable Business Battle jury. ‘I have good memories of this place, although student societies have changed a lot. They are no longer places where you only make friends but places where you discuss and tackle the big issues of our times.’ Schultz van Haegen is pleased that sustainability is taken so seriously. ‘It’s good that green is a hot topic, to save the earth but also because sustainability is big business now.’

Bin in a rubbish bin

Then it was time for the finalists to take to the stage. Bursting with enthusiasm they presented their solutions in five-minute pitches. These varied between an app with weekly challenges for the DUWO Student Energy Race, QR codes on reusable festival cups that can earn you a free drink, vertical planting on cycle parking facilities in the BioScience Park and a bin in a rubbish bin to help Leiden businesses separate waste. Each five-minute pitch was followed by the obligatory applause. The students then had a further four minutes to answer questions from the audience and the jury. After six fervent pitches, the jury was faced with the difficult task of crowning one team the winner of the first Sustainable Business Battle.

Jury Sustainable Business Battle 2017
The jury consisted of Melanie Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment), Frederic Petit, expert in sustainable business, Antoine Heideveld from Het Groene Brein and Hannah Lubbers from Studenten voor Morgen.

Ideas developed

While the jury deliberated, it became clear that you wouldn’t even need to win to bring your idea to fruition. The supervisor from the Rijnland District Water Control Board, one of the companies providing the business cases for the battle, promised the teams that had worked on his assignment that they could present their ideas at the next Life Science Café. He praised the students’ fresh take on things. ‘We’ve been thinking about these problems for decades, and within six weeks they come with solutions that we would have never conceived of.’ Caroline Gerritsma from the Municipality of Leiden was also enthusiastic about the plans that originated from the Business Battle. ‘Together with Leiden University, we asked how we could increase our employees’ awareness of sustainability. We’re going to set to work with both plans. And the good thing is that the Water Control Board just heard the plans and wants to implement the initiatives in their organisation too.’ She looks back at the process with satisfaction. ‘It is wonderful to watch students grow and see them work on increasingly concrete and well-developed plans.’

Bio Science Park equipped for climate change

The jury returned within half an hour. The entrants looked tense as they waited to hear who had won the first Sustainable Business Battle. The winner was announced: the Rijnland District Water Control Board team, with their idea of cycle towers covered with plants and a car park and water reservoir that will equip the Bio Science Park for climate change. Bob-Jan Kreiken from the winning team explained how he was really nervous about the final. ‘Whenever I practised my pitch at home it took seven minutes. But I managed to get it down to five here! It was a real learning experience to stand in front of such a big and critical audience.’ He and his team are really pleased with the honour and the prizes: they win eco-friendly headphones from Gerrard Street and get to meet Jan Terlouw, a former politician who is most committed to the environment.

Intense learning experience

Kreiken looks back with great satisfaction at his participation in the Sustainable Business Battle. ‘We had a lot of training in presentation, analysis, brainstorming and of course how to be solution-oriented. I learned a great deal and think that this is true for everyone.’ Annemijn Vos, who was on another team, agrees. ‘It is a very intense programme but a great learning experience.’ Vos was already into sustainability but enjoyed seeing it from another perspective. ‘It’s a real business course like the one that consultancies would provide, but then focusing on the environment.’

Sustainable Business Battle Leiden - The Hague

The Sustainable Business Battle is the initiative of the Leiden University Green Office (LUGO) and LSV Minerva. In a seven-week programme ten student teams pored over business cases from one or multiple business in the region. The assignments came from hotel and catering industry branch organisation Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, Rijnland District Water Control Board, Leiden University, the Municipality of Leiden, student accommodation provider DUWO and waste processing firm Vliko/RENEWI. Two teams worked on each assignment, and six of them made it to the final.

The winning team, with Bob-Jan Kreike on the left, worked on a way to make the Bio Science Park climate-proof at the behest of Rijnland District Water Control Board.

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