After months of preparations, the grand final of the HBO SDG Challenge 2022 was held on 21 April. The event took place at BlueCity in Rotterdam, an exemplary location for the circular economy. The SDG Challenge is one of the projects organised by the Soapbox youth agency, in which student teams were set the task of attempting to solve a sustainability challenge for the ground-breaking participating organisations. Over the past few months, all the teams have been working on a challenge set by these organisations in the field of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Makers Unite were elected winners by the jury, and HES International won the audience award.

What have a Circular Hub where left-over construction materials can be sold off, gift paper made from surplus fabrics and the organisation of a father-daughter day at the businesses based in the port got in common? At first glance very little, but it turns out that all these fabulous solutions were presented during the grand final of the SDG challenge in BlueCity. During the final event, representatives of the student teams could pitch their solution to a professional jury, that judged not only on their performance skills but also the practical application, social impact and potential to bring about a system change. Makers Unite won the jury award. Together, they worked on an awareness campaign for workers in sewing workshops to encourage the reuse of surplus fabrics and cut-offs. The jury was particularly impressed by the down-to-earth nature of the solution, which meant it could be put into practice, without delay.

HES International receives the audience award

The question presented by HES to the students was how to bring about a better male-female ratio among employees of the HES group. We think that on average, between 90 and 95% of employees in port-based companies, including at the HES terminals, are men. The solution proposed by the students included a communication campaign as a short-term solution combined with cooperation with training institutions and businesses to tackle the underlying problem that often has its root in upbringing and education. In elaborating their solution, the students carried out research at OBA IGMA Amsterdam, a 100% HES International terminal, where they were able to call upon the knowledge and experience of a number of employees. Together with the input from HES International colleagues Angelika Kastelein (HR Director), Nicole Schaffroth (Sustainability Manager) and Esther Erkelens (Manager Corporate Communications), the students came up with several creative ideas. One of their solutions was to organise a ‘take your daughter to work day’. A fun initiative that HES certainly plans to put into practice.


The SDG Challenge

With its SDG Challenge, Soapbox aims to mobilise students and organisations to work together to achieve the SDGs, so that organisations can green up their business processes, and students are triggered to strive for a career in sustainability. With its SDG Challenge, Soapbox itself is also creating impact on various SDGs, for example by helping organisations to create impact (SDG 9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure), to offer lifelong learning opportunities to their staff (SDG 4 - Quality education) and to build an ecosystem that helps bring our stakeholders closer together (SDG 17 - Partnerships for the goals).

For more information, visit of follow the project  on LinkedIn / Instagram to keep up to date on future editions of the SDG Challenge.

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