Responsible entrepreneurship takes stage during Opening of Academic Year
Today's societal challenges ask for impactful leaders and companies with an eye for people and the environment. At the opening of the 2022 – 2023 academic year of Nyenrode Business University, the theme of ‘corporate responsibility and leadership for the next 75 years’ was presented. Prof. Dr. Koen Becking, Rector Magnificus of Nyenrode, briefly looked back on the celebration of Nyenrode’s 75th anniversary but mainly looked ahead: “75 years ago, the Netherlands needed strong leaders who would roll up their sleeves to rebuild the country and put it economically on the map. Now, in this time and age, we need leaders and companies who know how to shape and realize the sustainable society.” During the opening, various speakers elaborated on their vision of responsible entrepreneurship in the future.
“Planet Earth is sick.” Sharon Dijksma, mayor of the Dutch city of Utrecht, emphasized during her speech the responsibility we all have to make our planet a better place. The metropolitan region of Utrecht has accepted the challenge and strives to become the 'beating heart of a healthy society'. “Entrepreneurs play an important role in this development, as drivers of innovation with a focus on the future. But students are also leaders of the future.” Dijksma challenged the students by saying: “Don't save your ideas and solutions until after your studies but share and realize them now.”
“Nyenrode: teach your new students how to run a business that balances making a profit and dealing with societal challenges. Because the future requires managers who can do both.” This is what alumnus Andy Bender, chairman of the Dutch American Foundation, said in his video message. From experience, he knows that it is possible: making a profit and pursuing ethics in your business operations. He even took it one step further by stating that corporate social responsibility benefits both one’s customers and one’s business. “And the new generation is asking for it too. Millennials and GenZ are no longer willing to work for the company that pays the most, but they are looking for an employer that takes on social problems.”
For years, standards and values within family-owned businesses have made ‘sustainability and care for your environment and staff’ an important theme. This is apparent from the research of Prof. Dr. Roberto Flören, RSM Professor of Family-owned Businesses and Prof. Dr. Marta Berent-Braun, Van Lanschot Kempen, Professor of Family-owned Businesses and Ownership Dynamics. During the opening of the academic year, these experts shared insight into the results of their research into family-owned businesses and sustainability.
Startups can play a significant role in dealing with the challenges of our time. But it is not easy. “It starts with a promising idea, but without a plan and a good team you will not be getting anywhere. And that team has to be diverse, in order for its members to complement one another with skills.” Constantijn van Oranje shared his knowledge and experience onstage and pointed out the importance of diversity. He called for investing in organizations with a diverse composition, because "83 % of the investments are still made in companies that are completely run by men".
According to Lucien Burm, chair of the Dutch Startup Association, the startup business is a true ‘student business’: 10% of graduates begin a startup. "You are not that cool if you don't own a startup yet." Although investment is declining, the number of startups is still increasing. Nyenrode has initiated a special program in collaboration with the Dutch Startup Association, in which alumni play a key role in the funding. "With this program we want to help at least 50 startups getting started over the next five years.”
Petri Hofsté, chair of the Nyenrode Foundation Board, concluded the program with a look back at another milestone: 50 years of women at Nyenrode. Before 1972, Nyenrode only accepted male students. But much has changed since: diversity, equality and inclusion are now anchored in Nyenrode's strategy and do not only relate to recruiting students, but also to career opportunities for employees, faculty members and management. Hofsté: “It is important that everyone feels at home at Nyenrode and that we continue to improve the representation of our world population in terms of gender and cultural background.”
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