DSGC and CEO’s in discussion over action for the SDG’s

On the 11th of November almost 50 CEO’s of the Netherlands largest companies gathered together to discuss sustainable leadership. The DSGC, facilitated by VNO-NCW and Accenture, invited these CEO’s for this gathering. Under moderation of Jan Peter Balkenende, Chairman of the DSGC, and science journalist Anna Gimbrère, the actions and steps needed by businesses to achieve the UN’s17  Sustainable Development Goals were discussed.

Watch the video summary (4 min): Leaders in the Dutch business world on the young generation as a source of inspiration

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Knowledge and experiences were shared through the topic of three prompts:

  1. What is the roll of a responsible leader in the stimulation of ambitious change? Marjan van Loon, President-Director Shell Nederland, Hein Schumacher, CEO FrieslandCampina, and Annemarieke de Haan, CEO Unilever Benelux, discussed and shared their experiences within their respective companies.
  2. How can sustainable strategy be realised in business operations? Dimitri de Vreeze, Co-Ceo DSM, Hans Böhm, Managing Director Heineken Nederland, and Sylvia van Es, President Philips Nederland, shared their vision.
  3. What type of partnerships are effective in stimulating innovation and sustainability? Thierry Vanlancker, CEO AkzoNobel, Professor Ben Feringa of the University of Groningen and Pieter Elbers, CEO KLM, lead the discussion.


For the fifty CEO’s, it is now self-evident that their responsibility extends beyond the company's immediate self-interest. Companies stand for more than realizing returns for shareholders. They want to help solve problems in society and can make a major contribution because of their unprecedented ability for innovation and execution. Especially in a time of transformation - think climate, digitalization, demographic developments and geopolitical shifts – is this salient.


The CEO’s want to act proactively to achieve the UN development goals in cooperation with companies, governments and scientific institutions. This is evident, for example, in the ambitious plans to decarbonize. During the CEO meeting, the climate summit in Glasgow was in full swing. Dutch companies are receiving international compliments there because they want to lead the way and include their partners throughout the value chain.


The CEO’s want to investigate whether they can buy more of each other's sustainable, innovative products and services. At the moment, these are still often more expensive than traditional products and services. They talk about the opportunities of becoming more sustainable, not about avoiding negative externalities, but about realising positive externalities. The desire for a future-proof world and the confidence in human ability are indicative of the atmosphere that afternoon.