As the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos is underway, SAP made two announcements today covering how the company will encourage both entrepreneurship and sustainability. SAP has a strong record of working on social and environmental issues, and today’s unveiling of these new programs builds on SAP’s reputation as a corporate social responsibility leader.
The two new programs are, in part, the result of SAP’s long term strategy. SAP has been keen on emerging markets such as the BRICs India and Brazil. But in order to have clients to whom a firm can pitch enterprise software, that same firm, not surprisingly, needs enterprises. And with youth employment a pesky program in both emerging and developed economies, the world’s largest companies must show they can participate within the solution, not be part of the problem. Furthermore, as climate change gains prominence on multinationals’ radar, investment in climate change and poverty–or in programs that tackle both problems concurrently–can help build a company’s reputation as an engaged local stakeholder seeking to improve people’s lives. To that end, today’s announcement that SAP will partner with organizations including Endeavor and the Livelihoods Fund is welcome news.
On the entrepreneurship front, SAP will invest $5 million over the next three years in Endeavor Global, Endeavor Brasil and India’s National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN). Endeavor, an anti-poverty movement the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman hailed as “the best anti-poverty program of all,” has screened over 30,000 entrepreneurs who, in turn, generated $5 billion in revenues during 2011, and created over 200,000 jobs.
Endeavor, SAP and their partners will choose emerging companies that have a robust business model, focus on social innovation and have the capacity to scale with their technologies. In Brazil, Endeavor Brazil and SAP will grant 50 emerging entrepreneurs access to programs such as mentorships and access to Endeavor’s online platform. In India, SAP will work within a similar initiative that involves the training 30 mentors across the country who will in turn support 300 emerging entrepreneurs. Up to five of these entrepreneurs will then receive a package of technologies to help meet their goals as well as a grant from SAP.
In addition, as of today, SAP has joined the Livelihoods Fund, an NGO that funds carbon sequestration, biodiversity and anti-poverty projects. Among the goals of this carbon investment fund is to build economic opportunities in rural communities and bolster food security. Among SAP’s strategies for partnering with Livelihoods Fund is to find new ways to decrease the company’s energy consumption, boost its purchase of electricity from clean energy sources and find new ways to offset the company’s emissions.
According to an email exchange program I had yesterday with SAP’s Evan Welsh, this one-two investment punch offers new opportunities to meet its sustainability commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the company’s 2000 levels by 2020–as well as create new businesses who can employ the world’s newest trained workers. When companies talk about “sustainability,” the social side of this movement deserves as much attention as the attention paid to the environment. SAP’s two-pronged approach may very well be one from which other multinationals can learn.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India next month with the International Reporting Project.
[Image credit: SAP]