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Sustainability firms on partnership LLP: ‘An opportunity for reflection’

A partnership with the Leiden Leadership Programme: what does it bring you? Two partner organisations in the field of sustainability, Arcadis and Bioto, share their experiences: “It's great to be surprised by new insights.”

In the Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP), ambitious master's students take extra courses alongside their regular studies. The honours students learn about leadership and acquire new skills, which they apply in a practical assignment. This involves working on an issue of a partner organisation. This way, they work on their personal development while also learning to contribute to society within a specific theme.

One of the themes of the practical assignments is Sustainability & Climate. Arie Voorburg, senior consultant innovation and business development at engineering firm Arcadis, and René van der Veer, co-founder of green tech startup Bioto, provide insight in the cooperation with the Leiden Leadership Programme within this theme.

For those not familiar with your organisations: what do they do?

Arie (Arcadis): “We are a global design and consultancy organisation in the field of natural and built environments. Arcadis is committed to research and innovation in sustainability, in cooperation with business partners and knowledge institutions. Concrete projects focus on themes as circular economy, biodiversity and sustainable urban development.”

Arie Voorburg, senior consultant at Arcadis: 'I hope students gain insight in how to create change.'

René (Bioto): “Bioto uses the power of technology and nature to help people green their surroundings in a biodiverse, edible and climate-adaptive way. We work towards cities and towns where residents can produce their food locally and efficiently, green their environment and make the city's climate more manageable.”

Why did you enter into a partnership with the LLP?

René (Bioto): “The practical assignment forces us to clearly explain what we do. Only from a thorough understanding of our question can students look for answers. For us, the collaboration is an opportunity for reflection. The students take a different look at our field of work. It's great to be surprised by new insights and unexpected information.”

Arie (Arcadis): “For us, research into social aspects of our work is important, especially for the near and distant future. It is interesting how students look at what needs to change. Our practical assignments are always 'exploratory': investigative, creative and future-oriented. Thus, the projects offer plenty of opportunities for new insights.”

René van der Veer, co-founder Bioto: 'The students take a different look at our field of work. '

“They are driven and motivated students,” Arie continues. “We work closely with them, as much as possible through our own young professionals. This creates energy and generates a dissemination of knowledge within our own organisation. I hope that students learn from us how things work in a company. And above all, I hope they gain insight into the big challenges of society and learn how to create change.”

What concrete projects have students been working on this year?

René (Bioto): “The students investigated what is needed to set up our Bioto Kids programme. This project aims to link a green-blue environment in the schoolyard to a digital learning environment. Children are encouraged by the digital school board to learn from and in nature, based on wonder and specific assignments. We will take the insights from the LLP students’ research into the further development of this programme.”

'The results of their research is perfect, we can definitely move forward with this!'

Arie (Arcadis): “It is time to rethink the concept of 'sustainability' and focus on regeneration: restoring the natural systems that support life on earth. We asked two groups of students to define guidelines for this, focusing on the implications for leadership, now and in the future. The results are perfect: excellent analyses and well-motivated perspectives for further development. We can definitely move forward with this!”

Finally, on the topic of 'Climate & Sustainability'. What would you like to pass on regarding this subject, given your profession?

René (Bioto): “Give people prospects for action, inspiration and practical tools. And also show how their actions have contributed to a more positive situation, afterwards.”

Arie (Arcadis): “Sustainability may not be enough to address the complex problems on our planet. Therefore, I call for regeneration to be the starting point for our actions: not just minimising damage, but actively improving the health and resilience of ecosystems and communities.”

Co-founder of Bioto, Thijs Ewalts, shows a design for water collection that lets plants flourish.

Portrait pictures: Buro JP
Banner photo: Eveline Kallenberg

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