City students compete against sixteen Dutch universities on a sustainability challenge.

By City Press Office (City Press Office), Published (Updated )

Six students from City, University of London travelled to the Netherlands to take part in the “SDG-Challenge University”, a Dutch university sustainability competition based on the United Nations' Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs).

The “SDG-Challenge University” was developed by marketing agency Soapbox to mobilise students and companies to contribute to the goals.

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The 17 SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

During the SDG-Challenge, each team worked on a real-life sustainability challenge faced by a leading organisation, with the purpose of reaching a meaningful solution and making an impact both on the company and the sector as a whole.

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City as the only non-Dutch university

The SDG-Challenge was only previously open to Dutch students, but this year City participated as the only overseas institution, competing against 16 Dutch teams.

Arthur Shearlaw, Sustainability Engagement Coordinator at City, selected a group of participants after watching them come up with ideas at the recent Sustainable City Hackathon hosted in March.

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Reflecting on City’s commitment to sustainability, Arthur said:

Students are the leaders of tomorrow and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to tackle sustainability problems will be essential for them in an increasingly uncertain future.

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The interdisciplinary City team was made up of both undergraduate and postgraduate students:

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City SDG-Challenge

The challenge addressed by the City team was how to incorporate sustainability in the activities and events of the Dutch embassy in London.

Commenting on the solution put forward by the students, Arthur said:

After the Sprint Day at the Dutch embassy, the team refined their idea to create a checklist which the embassy could use to hold themselves accountable for each event they run, but also something interactive that participants of each event could rate them on, therefore driving each event to be more sustainable. This could be scalable across other embassies if successful.

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On the benefits of taking part in the competition, he added:

The SDG-Challenge allows students to tackle real-world sustainability problems that large organisations and businesses face, rather than hypothetical scenarios set by teaching staff – they become real-life sustainability consultants!

“The challenge also encourages interdisciplinary working, with the students representing three different schools at City with different disciplines, and enables them to practice skills such as public speaking and presenting.

“The City team had the opportunity to develop relationships with students from different backgrounds and network with multiple large-scale international businesses which boosts their employability skills.”

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Reflecting on his participation in the SDG-Challenge, Jonathon Joseph Weldon, a MSc Data Science student said:

I was really pleased to be selected for the SDG-Challenge, which I think was quite a unique thing to be a part of, and great fun too.

“Everyone added value to the team, each in their own way.

It’s easy to sit back and think of sustainability problems as someone else’s to solve – but they’re not. I would encourage everyone to try and learn a bit more about the broader concept of sustainability, as well as the SDGs and what they’re trying to achieve.”

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Fellow team member Hazry Hazmat Aqbal, a BSc International Political Economy student, hopes to apply to work in sustainability in roles that will allow him to use his understanding of economics and policy. He describes cycling in Amsterdam as “the best” and was inspired by how interdisciplinary the field of sustainability is.

He said:

I chose to take part because it seemed like an amazing opportunity to improve my communication and interpersonal skills while also gaining real experience of what working as a consultant in sustainability may entail.

"Being selected was a great honour and I felt proud representing City as the only British university in the challenge.

"I can confidently say it has inspired us to take the next steps in our career."

Written by Chiara Petrini Rossi, Communications Assistant at City, University of London.