The 6th edition of the SDG Traineeship has begun. The first SDG Talk was held at the Erasmus University, where most of the 80 participants were present, enjoying their first in-person meeting with food and drinks. The talk was given by Professor Rob van Tulder and Martin Clemens from the Rock Group.

The Rock Group is a sustainable consultancy company that works directly with the SDG house to offer assistance during the traineeship. This collaboration was created in order to increase awareness about the SDGs.

Martin started off with an introduction about what we will learn and can expect during the upcoming 15 weeks.

After this introduction, Professor van Tulder took over. He emphasised that the SDGs are important, because they can provide a tool for “backcasting”: they are clear goals for our future that can help us deduct how to tackle the problems that the world is currently facing. This way, the SDGs make it possible to see the goals at hand, without getting stuck in the endless forest of possible initiatives to reach these goals. Now organisations who want to help, can understand how to help. However, in order for people to join in this battle against the current crises we need to understand how to motivate them. According to Professor van Tulder there are two well-known routes to this goal: do no harm or do good. Or, in other words, a positive or a negative framing of the crises. Interestingly, neither of these routes works well without the other. We need to both state the gravity of the current crises as well as emphasise the positive change that can and is being made and, thus, create a third route, an effective route.

The most important lesson

The SDG talk from Professor van Tulder focussed on many aspects of the SDGs. One subject that was reportedly stressed was the need and the importance of the SDGs. The reason for this was mainly the “cascade of issues” or the “perfect storm” as he called it. The perfect storm entails that there are many issues which are crashing down upon society and the environment and that if these are not tackled quickly, the current issues will only grow worse. Because of this, he also mentioned many issues which made the first half of his presentation, as promised, very “doom and gloom”. However, to our surprise, there was a sudden change in tone halfway through his presentation. He played a video in which multiple people demonstrated numerous ways in which they could help the planet by supporting the SDGs. This was quite a surprising revelation, since it stressed and showed the power people have when it comes to helping the planet. After this another video was presented that also challenged the “doom and gloom” tone of the earlier half of the presentation. It showed how a multitude of important people had succeeded in supporting the SDGs and had already made a lasting impact. This showed us a narrative which was not only different from the first part of the presentation, but also from the usual narrative: you can change and the world has already changed, not only by taking small steps yourself, but also by using your voice so bigger steps are made. Surprisingly, Professor van Tulder managed to create his own “third route” in this way. He showed us both the positive and the negative in order to motivate us.

A tip from us

We learned a lot from the SDG talk that can be useful for our project. The most significant initiative that our team intends to incorporate into our assigned project revolves around the alignments of the SDGs with the strategic goals of our organisation. For instance, if our company already possesses inherent synergies with specific SDGs, we will strive to optimise the utilisation of these SDGs. In essence, we will look beyond the SDGs that the company asks us to achieve (perhaps also a nice tip for the other teams ;)).

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