We live in a world of smart connected ovens, but one in which 795 million people do not have enough food to eat. We are witnessing exponential growth, but also great inequality.
Addressing this kind of polarization is no longer solely the role of governments and the non-profit sector. Large corporations have the opportunity, while still in service to their customers and shareholders, to address the needs of society by working with small organizations with strong social values. We call these social enterprises.
Since the first Social Enterprise World Forum in 2008, social enterprises around the world have transformed lives, revitalized communities, and tackled big economic issues to become a global phenomenon. Still, much remains to be done for the sector to reach its full potential.
By collaborating and innovating with these businesses, mature corporations can play a role in building a more inclusive world, one that also provides for the most vulnerable among us. By enabling access to the resources that purpose-driven businesses need to be successful, we can help maximize positive social impact in a sustainable way.
Corporations can support social enterprises by extending their commercial offerings such as technology, professional services, manufacturing, or marketing that they are already delivering to their global customers. We can unleash the engagement and expertise of our employees in these socially-engaged programs. And, we can integrate social enterprises into our supply chains and see our own social impact grow. It is estimated that corporate spend outweighs corporate social responsibility (CSR) spend by a factor of up to 100:1. This means that many organizations can deliver more social impact by selecting the right suppliers than through philanthropy. This way we bring about a more sustainable economy that affects — and helps — the millions of people on the economic margins.
At SAP, our founding purpose and promise is to deliver the best in continuous innovation for our customers and to ultimately help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This relationship has guided our spirit of innovation over the last 46 years as we have engineered solutions to fuel innovation, foster equality, and spread opportunity across borders and cultures. We work with our customers in the public and private sector, partners, employees, communities, and social enterprises to transform industries, grow economies, lift societies, and sustain our environment.
Entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are two sides of the same coin, working in tandem to inspire innovation both outside and inside corporations in a virtuous cycle. When we inspire employees to find innovative ways to solve society’s problems, we see astonishing ideas turn from concepts into social businesses that change people’s lives. Our flagship program, the SAP One Billion Lives initiative, is founded on the belief that large corporations must play a role in addressing the world’s biggest problems.
SAP One Billion Lives is a crowdsourced, ground-up initiative employing the power of SAP technology to deliver sustainable, commercially viable social impact. Ventures are selected after a rigorous review process where they pitch their business ideas to secure mentoring, support and funding to turn their passion into viable social businesses.
One of the first SAP One Billion Lives investees is optimizing cancer treatment protocols in India. Together with a reputable, local cancer foundation, our team has built a research platform with 900,000 patient records to support Indian-genome specific cancer treatments. With the insight gained through the platform, negative side effects, mortality rates, and treatment costs are tremendously reduced, changing the way cancer treatment is done in India.
By supporting social enterprises and at the same time nurturing our own intrapreneurship, we harness technology for good, for the future, for a better world for all.
Adaire Fox-Martin is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE.