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Transparency and Traceability in the Supply Chains of Coffee and Cocoa

“Although vital for millions of smallholder farmers, the cocoa and coffee industries are plagued by economic hardships, environmental concerns, and human rights issues”

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Expert opinions, analyses, and more

Knowledge Beyond Borders

Welcome to the SBE Blog, a platform for our academic community to share their expertise with people beyond their academic borders! Our authors range from students and PhDs to tenured professors and lecturers.

Would you like to contribute to the SBE Blog? Then send your pitch to SBE's Research Communications Officer, Nima Hassanloo

Blog posts

  • What if students could use play to learn to think strategically, apply economic concepts and deal with complex problems? This is what we have started exploring in the first of a series of three pilots of the Maastricht Immersive Learning Lab. 

  • The Dutch population is growing substantially due to immigration and this is a cause for concern. It was a major reason for the PVV's election victory. Immigration is blamed for an overcrowded Netherlands. In Belgium, a similar debate is currently raging ahead of the upcoming national elections. In...

  • Educational systems are resilient systems, with technology functioning as an essential tool to overcome the shocks. The pandemic made educational systems realize they possess great capacity to overcome hurdles and create awareness that universities should use their potential to innovate. This blog...

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  • Founded 40 years ago, SBE started with only a handful of students and a motivated group of staff members experimenting with a new concept called Problem Based Learning. Since then, the School has grown to about 6,300 students and around 700 staff members, with education and research programmes in...

  • As researchers, we usually consider sharing our findings once a paper is published, whether through blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter/X posts, or perhaps through executive summaries, infographics, or workshops with stakeholders. However, in reality, we cannot be certain that these post-hoc initiatives...

  • The housing sector is undergoing a moment of transformation as countries face increasing pressure to meet their greenhouse emission reduction pledges for the upcoming decades, with numerous countries aiming to achieve near-zero emissions by 2050.

  • In today’s global landscape, the connection between government policy and academic research is key for progress. Due to time constraints, government officials often overlook the benefits of academic research in their decisions. Academics, on the other hand, may be unsure about how to approach...

  • In a compelling exploration of the cocoa and coffee industries, a new FSD report highlights the economic, environmental, and social challenges faced by smallholder farmers, unravelling the status quo of persistent poverty and disparities and the pressing need for increased transparency and...

  • With the increasing temperature records and escalating frequency and intensity of weather extremes, the urgency of climate mitigation cannot be overstated (IPCC, 2022). In my master's thesis, I researched the impact of chocolate companies implementing Scope-3 emissions reduction strategies on the...

  • How can we help employees to fulfil their potential? And how can we do this in a way that is sustainable for both employees and organizations? Recently, I started a new professorship at the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) at SBE to address these questions, together with...

  • SBE alumnus Paul Schraven reflects on his journey after Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). After a stint in management consulting, he co-founded SparkSupply in Berlin, connecting students to startups. Shifting away from this model, he worked remotely for a US startup...

  • Being a homeowner: to some, it is a dream for which they are willing to work hard and bear a substantial financial burden. To others, it is an undesirable combination of maintenance effort, bureaucracy and reduced mobility.

    Seemingly, this polarization of opinions applies at a broader level, too...

  • This article discusses the European Investment Screening Mechanism (ISM) – a legal instrument to control international mergers and acquisitions involving non-European investors. ISM aims to safeguard economic and societal resilience by protecting Europe’s key assets to ensure national security and...

  • Imagine walking down the supermarket aisle, looking for a snack. While your stomach craves a decadent treat, your brain nudges you toward a healthier choice. Amidst this internal tug-of-war, your eyes land on a brightly labeled "Low Fat" granola bar. It's perfect, you think, a guilt-free and healthy...

  • A new paper by Associate Professor Steffen Künn from Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics) now provides novel evidence that providing unconditional financial support to encourage geographical mobility among unemployed job...

  • About 675 million people in our world live on less than $2.15 a day, the World Bank’s cut-off for extreme poverty. In Congo, where 70% live in this state, a meal at the local McDonalds alone would cost almost four times more. The management Guru C.K. Prahalad coined the term Base of the Income...

  • Agroforestry carbon farming projects have multiple benefits on a local and global scale. By looking at one project in Uganda, participating in the Acorn programme, this blog explored how additional income links to gender equality and women´s empowerment.

  • No organisation exploited climate change like large media corporations –it is widely evident and even famous among climate scientists! Humanity has gone through different sorts of natural crises that took it to the verge of extinction: the early low breeding age (900,00 years ago), ice age and more...

  • SBE Academics created and successfully tested a practitioner's guide for asset managers & asset owners. The guide has helped financial institutions like Nationale Nederlanden, Pensioenfonds Detailhandel, and more in assessing the sustainability preferences of their clientele. 

  • SBE alumnus Riccardo Notarangelo works as a Project Researcher at the University of Vaasa in Finland. In this article, he shares how his studies and experience at SBE and his love for rugby contributed to him going to where he went and ending up where he is.

  • At the beginning of August 2023, I participated in the Academy of Management (AOM) annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. This conference is the largest gathering of management and organization scholars in the world, with more than 10 000 participants and more than 2 3000 sessions. Navigating...

  • I just got back from the 2023 Academy of Management (AOM) Conference in Boston, USA. It was my first time attending this conference, and I was impressed by the experience. The AOM Conference is the largest annual gathering of management scholars in the world, and this year it was attended by more...

  • "Destructive Criticism…is certainly the most helpful criticism", words of 20th century figurative painter Francis Bacon that symbolize the creative process in academic work. These words buttress my experience of presenting my work at the University of Agder, Norway. 

  • My work focuses on applying the computational methodology of Agent-Based Modeling to questions about the sustainability of trends in aggregate consumption. My first paper “Catching Up or Keeping Up?” addresses the interaction of peer effects and developments in aggregate demand when income...

  • The Dutch Research Council (NWO) recently awarded their prestigious Veni funding to 188 promising researchers (out of 1462 applicants) in the Netherlands. SBE's Juan Palacios and Max Löffler were among the 188 laureates who each received up to €280,000 in funding which they will use to develop their...

  • ‘Earth’s hottest month ever’ is a clear warning that we as humanity should not overshoot planetary boundaries. We must act now, and we should do it together.

  • Participating in conferences is perhaps the most exciting part of a PhD journey. This July, I had the chance to do so twice. First, I joined the annual meeting of the European Real Estate Society in London, followed by the international conference of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics...

  • Service robots are rapidly becoming a part of our daily lives. From being deployed in retail and hospitality, to health and elderly care settings, service robots are innovating the way in which we deliver services to customers. Moreso, while service robots can assist employees in their day-to-day...

  • SBE alumnus Maxime Croisé (Renneboog) did not follow the typical career-path as you would expect from someone graduating from a Business School. When most of his fellow SBE alumni were signing contracts to work for various companies, Maxime followed his passion and became a magician.

  • In a rapidly changing world faced with environmental challenges and social inequalities, the role of economics education in shaping future leaders is more critical than ever. If we aspire for a sustainable future, it becomes essential to (re)evaluate what we teach our students about economics and...

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) has gradually become more prevalent in our daily lives. We ask Siri about the weather or have Chat GPT type our work emails. But what does it take to make all these AI-driven devices work?

  • The project "BioBased Circular" has received a grant of €338 million in the third round of the National Growth Fund. The School of Business and Economics is represented in this project by Herman Wories, Programme Director at BISCI.

  • On July 3rd 2023 a broad coalition of Dutch civil society organisations, labor unions and think tankslaunched a call for a social and sustainable European fiscal pact in public debate centre Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. The coalition argues that the current EU budget undermine social and...

  • Extreme weather events have disastrous consequences for the livelihoods, health, and economic well-being of our communities. The banking sector can be an important lever to enhance our resilience. The thing is, we might have to trade off efficiency versus resilience.

  • In 2002, Maastricht University became the first university outside the United States to The Frontiers in Service Conference. Now, after 21 years, The School of Business and Economics is proud to have once again welcomed service researchers from around the globe for this prestigious event.

  • Each year, students in the Netherlands rate the quality of their programmes and Universities in the National Student Survey (NSE). This year’s results have positioned Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) in first place, making it the leading faculty for business and economics...

  • Frederik Claasen, the head of policy at our partner organisation Solidaridad Network on the opportunities and obstacles facing smallholder farmers in their data ecosystems.

  • The Maastricht Center for Robots (MCR) has been recognized for its exceptional contribution to the field of service robotics with the prestigious Robert Johnston 2022 Best Paper Award. The award-winning research titled "The Service Triad: An Empirical Study of Service Robots, Customers, and...

  • Uncertainty can make our lives difficult. This blog post will walk through the basic concepts of uncertainty in economics, coupled with a few takeaways from our research.

     

  • The Great Resignation saw a record number of people change their jobs post-pandemic – 49 million US professionals switched jobs in 2021, and one in five workers worldwide were planning to quit their job in 2022. Surveys consistently found that job switchers were looking for better, fairer, working...

  • Much of everyday life consists of routinized and habitual activities that use energy, such as heating the home. Heating (space and water heating combined) accounted for about 80% of the final energy consumption of households while about 90% of homes in the Netherlands used natural gas for heating in...

  • A blog post on the potential of AR and VR technologies to address global challenges in Agriculture by Dominik Mahr, Full Professor at and head of the MSCM Department, and Noah Moonen, lecturer at MSCM, and DEXLab Manager

     

  • There are smarter solutions than abolishing English-language programmes to curb the influx of international students. Offer them a better starting position in the labour market in the Netherlands and more access to Dutch society by making knowledge of the Dutch language and culture mandatory. They...

  • Following the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, resilience emerged as a fresh aspiration for individuals, teams, organizations, supply chains and—yes, you’ve guessed it!—even entire economies and societies. At the same time, the sustainability imperative has been with...

  • You have most likely seen internationally renowned companies' claims stating their products are "carbon neutral" or have heard that you can fly, buy new clothes or eat certain foods without exacerbating the climate crisis. But what are these claims built on?

  • About a year ago, I lost a bet. As a wager, I had to watch the “The Last Dance”, the Netflix documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. To me, who never watches sports on TV, sitting through a 10-part (!) series about basketball seemed to be quite dreadful. So, I thought. However, after...

  • SBE alumnus Niels Geominy did not follow the typical career-path as you would expect from someone graduating from a Business School. When most of his fellow SBE alumni were signing contracts to work for multinationals, Niels decided to launch his own start-up: Fiks.

  • International Women's Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for women's rights and highlights the progress made towards gender equality whilst drawing attention to the challenges they still face. SBE's Elinor Ostrom Fund is working to address the underrepresentation of women in academia...

  • SBE Researcher Jakob Raymaekers has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship grant for his research project. The objective of this grant is to support researchers’ careers and foster excellence in research.

  • SBE Researchers Anouk Festjens (MSCM) and Nico Pestel (ROA) have been awarded NWO grants for their research projects in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) domain. These grants are specifically intended to encourage bold, curiosity-driven ideas, even if the outcome is uncertain. The focus is on...

  • “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and trying new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”, Walt Disney

    In Lewis Carroll’s famous “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” Alice is confronted with a series of unexpected and challenging situations. It all...

  • Immigrants form an increasing share of the Dutch population. Several barriers, such as a lack of Dutch language skills or limited knowledge on Dutch institutions, can hamper the integration process.   A major channel for integration is education. It can, among others, improve chances to receive...

  • SBE researchers Jermain Kaminski, Emir Efendić, and Marc Becker share their thoughts on how AI systems, like those of OpenAI, are impacting the labour market.

  • Since the 2015 adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 deadline, the first Dutch national SDG Barometer study shows that there is a lot to be optimistic about. 

  • In this blog, Sustainability Science graduate Marie-Luise Zaiss briefly answers the research question of her master thesis: To what extent do these companies add sustainable value at the farmer level of the Ghanaian cocoa value chain?

  • The discussion on how many inhabitants the Netherlands could or should have ignores the essential factor: the rate of change in the population's size and composition. The way we have discussed this issue in the past decades paralyses the debate on what is needed to adapt to the changes that are...

  • SBE's Education Institute held the annual Educating Festival. This year, the focus of the event was on innovative assessment practices. This article reflects on the unique festival set-up of the event, as well as the impressions it left on the attendees.

  • Growing up in Belgium and working at a Belgian University, I have always had a positive image of family businesses. When we think about family businesses in Belgium, big brands and companies of which most Belgians are proud come to mind. An example is “AB Inbev,” a publicly–listed family firm...

  • Impact assessment refers to the various practices of trying to understand the contributions to addressing different sustainability challenges [1,2]. Assessing impact is often by default referring to the measurements conducted after the execution of different projects, decisions or policies –...

  • When we asked alumnus Robbie Servais about his current occupation, he told us that he works as a football coach at K.R.C. Genk. An unusual career considering that he studied International Business at Maastricht University. Although Robbie's profession may seem like an unusual career choice, his...

  • Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States’ longest serving president, who held office from 1933 until 1945, four terms in total.

    Introducing Eleanor like this does not do her justice. She was certainly much more than “the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” She was an...

  • Worldwide, millions of people work in clothing, textile and shoe production. The vast majority are not paid enough to meet their basic needs. This needs to change! That is why FSD supports Solidaridad's Good Clothes Fair Pay campaign, a European Citizens’ Initiative for a living wage in the clothing...

  • Primary school students are, on average, 15 weeks behind. Especially in maths and spelling. "The problem is getting bigger instead of smaller." - Carla Haelermans, Professor of Education Economics

  • Carlijn Bruijn, a third-year International Business student, spent a year in Montreal thanks to the institutional exchange programmes of UM and backed by a Holland Scholarship. While the sojourn was obligatory for her, she would recommend the experience to anyone.

  • phonesandlaptops

    How to reach Bali?

    In the recent years, we all observed how countries and institutions relied on digital tools to deal with the COVID shocks. For example, as Maastricht University, with the help of the digital learning management system and meeting software CANVAS, ZOOM and TEAMS we were able to continue our education...

  • The Fair and Smart Data (FSD) spearhead held their third hybrid event on Friday 28th October 2022, with speakers from industry, academia, and non-profit sector.

  • As rising house prices and rents trigger a grim affordability crisis in many urban markets, both policymakers and frustrated tenants have been longing for solutions. This has brought the issue of housing supply constraints – factors that impede the development of new housing units and thereby raise...

  • External partnerships and Action Research are exceptions rather than rules within university walls. Which in our case raises the question: How did the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) spearhead, Fair & Smart Data, come to exist and combine these aspects?

  • Resilience is a fascinating word. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant”. Therein, it suggests agency, the ability to change. But too often we find ourselves confronted with external influences that can have long...

  • The sudden and extreme increase in energy prices and the subsequent emergence of broader inflation is a big negative shock for the economy, hurting households and firms. Fighting inflation is a task for policymakers, in particular central banks. However, the different trade-offs that central banks...

  • Remember the last time you were wrong? And I don’t mean slightly off-target but very, very wrong. Everything looked crisp, clear. It just made sense. There was no doubt, so you went all in.

    Then the shock. Reality sank in. Slowly at first. Gradually there was more nuance. Gray shades were all over...

  • Looking back on the last two years, it is safe to say that we all have been through a lot. Most of us (individuals, families, organisations, and society as a whole) are coming out of “crisis mode” and we all need to get used to a new normal. Of course, the pandemic is not over, but as most corona...

  • See below a blog post that calls for interdisciplinary collaboration to identify public policies that strengthen supply chain(s)’resilience.

  • Each year people donate more than $500 Billion — equivalent to 2.5% of the US GDP. The sheer size of this amount shows that charitable giving has the potential to play a prominent role in the transition towards a more equal and sustainable society.

  • For any food and agriculture supply chain actor with a sustainability target, carbon farming is a promising solution. But supply chain actors are not the first to look at carbon farming to meet these targets. What are the consequences, and how can we tackle them?

  • It was an eye-opening moment: a few years’ ago, I attended a huge conference on microfinance, together with one of my PhD students. In attendance at the conference was a nice mix of academics and practitioners. Our paper, presented by my PhD student, was about what has become known as ‘mission drift...

  • In the light of numerous recent disruptive events, the (economic) sustainability of cross-border supply chains receives increasing attention in public debates. Consequences of natural disasters, political power games or an enduring pandemic become widely felt, even when countries are not directly...

  • This Summer, when on holiday in Norway, I noticed how clean the water was in one of the fjords surrounding the beautiful city of Bergen. It allowed for making idyllic pictures of houses whose outlines were reflected in the water. How different this was when I visited a dump ground in Germany a...

  • Many of us have purchased fair trade products and paid a premium in hopes of improving the lives of farmers in developing countries. But what effect does this premium we pay in the supermarkets have? And how can we evaluate existing or new policies aimed at raising the income and well-being of...

  • In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on hold and impacted economies and people's lives, including those on the move. The socio-economic challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has imposed on labour migration and governments are complex. The labour mobility pilot scheme between Germany and...

  • Roman Briker and Fynn Gerken, two talented academics from Maastricht University's School of Business and Economics (SBE),  were recently awarded Marie Sklodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships for their research on Artificial Intelligence.

  • Fair and Smart Data, an SBE Spearhead, was recently invited to join Solidaridad Network, one of their partners, on a field trip to Malawi and Zambia. The goal was to introduce their partners and colleagues to their smallholder farmers-oriented digital projects. In this blog, Sidi Amar reflects on...

  • Challenges like post-Covid supply chain disruptions, staff shortages, unpredictable political tensions, an energy crisis, and not to forget an impending climate crisis, force organisations to change and adapt continuously. Becoming resilient, sustainable, and innovative requires that organizations...

  • Economists have long obsessed with efficiency. At the macro- and micro level such things as slack, waste and inefficiency were considered things to avoid and economists have advocated free markets and open competition to eliminate them. In this blog I will argue that we have been too successful, and...

  • In July 2021, the flooding of small towns and cities in the area between Bonn-Liege-Maastricht caused enormous material damage and human misery. In the Netherlands, Valkenburg was flooded, in Belgium Pepinster was greatly damaged and in Germany the Ahrtal (a touristic wine-growing area) and several...

  • Why do investors hold Socially responsible investments (SRIs)?

    This blog shows insights into a project that examines investors’ true motives for SRI. The researchers conducted a lab experiment to adopt novel methods to elicit investors’ beliefs, ambiguity perceptions, and norm-following...

  • FSDGs, a playful contraction of FSD, the Fair & Smart Data spearhead at Maastricht University and the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. What is the relationship between both acronyms, or to put it less ambitious, to which of the SDGs can FSD possibly contribute? Moreover...

  • CEOs of large companies work hard to make their business profitable. Yet they also face ever-increasing societal and regulatory demands to make the company more environmentally and socially sustainable.

    Tereza Bauer interviewed fourteen CEOs of Dutch listed companies about their sustainability...

  • Completing a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management in 2011 and a master’s in the same field in 2012—both as SBE—Patrick Mack has gone on to enjoy a career that has taken him from the Netherlands to work in three different countries, learn two new languages, and travel extensively. He shares...

  • Alumnus Jean-Paul Jaegers completed the Dutch Mountain Trail in one day on 17 April 2022. The trail is 101km long and covers seven summits in the beautiful southern parts of Limburg via the German and Belgium borders and finishing in Maastricht. In addition to the trail being a bold personal...

  • An SBE research group collaborated with the local Coffee Lovers and applied Augmented Reality to showcase its impact on sales.

  • Many fair trade labels exist, but do they really work well? Labelling fair products is an easy way to inform consumers without overloading them with information. But it also seems that the success of this strategy is limited. Which raises the main question: what stops consumers from buying fair...

  • A short blog on Melissa Siegel's recent YouTube series on the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

  • What are companies' voluntary offsetting claims based on? How can we distinguish between good and bad? And what is the role of consumers, whose perceptions are at the core of companies' motivations to offset emissions?
    Emma van de Ven, Strategy Lead at ACORN (Rabobank), was interviewed to explain...

  • SBE researchers Kimberley van der Heijden, Anouk Festjens, Caroline Goukens and NYU researcher Tom Meyvis recently published their findings on how individuals experiencing financial pressure make decisions. These findings challenge the traditional research notion that less wealthy people pick short...

  • This blog is about the GroЯ® trading platform of Vestergaard, a social entrepreneurship company based in Switzerland. Vestergaard is well known for its high-quality mosquito nets distributed to approximately 2 billion people in Africa and Asia. As an FSD team member, I see strong alignment between...

  • Researchers at UNU-MERIT, the Maastricht Sustainability Institute and the Department of Chemical Engineering of Maastricht University have obtained a 1.5 million euro grant to contribute to an EU-funded project on plastic packaging recycling.  The EU is allocating a total budget of 9.6 million euros...