Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Brittany Lothe: I am Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP. I am responsible for leading social investment globally which includes grant, technology, and volunteering initiatives. I also have operational oversight for CSR-related governance, fiscal reporting, executive engagement, and various elements of communications.
I started at SAP more than 10 years ago in Government Relations. Prior to joining SAP, I held various legislative and campaign roles in the State of Wisconsin and in Washington, DC.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
BL: From entrepreneurial beginnings more than forty years ago, SAP has grown into the largest global provider of business software. Ours is a story of customer-inspired innovation. We develop easy-to-use solutions that address complex business problems. We provide the foundation for our customers to innovate and bring to market products and services globally. With business success, our social investment strategy has also expanded. The approach may have evolved over four decades – from philanthropy, to strategic giving, to a focus on value creation via social investment – but one thing remains the same. Our efforts are more than “just the right thing to do.” They are strategic to the success of SAP, as well as our customers and partners.
We are investing our capital, talent, and technology to enhance education for underserved youth and support emerging entrepreneurs. We believe that investing in education and entrepreneurs is the best way to foster economic growth and create a sustainable future for society and our company. Focusing on education ensures that youth have the skills required to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy and we can help mentor the workforce for the future. Our emphasis on entrepreneurship helps drive both new ideas about how to do business and opportunities for our company in terms of potential customers or partners. To achieve this we utilize our technology, our employees’ skills and other core competencies to help improve people’s lives throughout the world.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
BL: My dad. As the youngest city council member at the time and oldest rookie cop in my hometown in Wisconsin, he instilled values of civic involvement at an early age.
He was a grocer for 20 years. My senior year of college, he told me that he was “going back to the police academy.” At 21 years old, I had no idea he had ever been in the academy. He made choices early in his life to ensure that his family had stability, he encouraged my sister and me to focus on education – both traditionally and experientially – so that we had all the opportunities in the world.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
BL: Plan like a pessimist, think like a realist, act like an optimist, and - above all - love what you do…
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
BL: From a professional perspective, I am very proud of the work we have done over the past year to more closely align our CSR focus to our business strategy. Our holistic approach – activating talent, leveraging capital and enabling technology – extends our leadership position in established markets where SAP’s customer, partner and employee presence is strong and supports our go-to-market activities. It also supports our presence in frontier markets where we may just be entering or have recently had an uptick in investment and presence. By focusing our talent, technology, and capital on education and entrepreneurship, we can enact positive social change through economic growth, job creation, innovation, and community and deliver upon SAP’s vision – to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.
And, from a personal perspective, I would say returning to work following maternity leave. My son was born at 24 weeks and he spent the first five months of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH). He came home in June. We still have some obstacles to overcome but realize how lucky we are under the circumstances with a feisty and playful little guy who is full of personality.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
BL: The most complex social problems are affected by large and interdependent systems that no one actor – be it a nonprofit, corporation, government or inspired individual – can possibly solve on its own. There needs to be a shared vision, common measurement, a coordinated approach and open communication to effectively move the needle. In my view, if - as an industry - we pool our resources and bring our core assets together to tackle topics that impact us all we affect change at an even more rapid pace that going it alone.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
BL: Yoga in the morning. Lunch at the farmers market. Walk on the beach in the afternoon, followed by a lobster roll and microbrew seaside.
Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and @anewell3p on Twitter.