Sustainable Development

Companies can help build a more inclusive world. Here's how

A woman comes out from a mobile cancer detection unit after her mammography examination during a free medical check-up camp in a slum area in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh February 6, 2011. Since 2005 -2010, a total of 15,467 people have undergone breast cancer screening in India and 691 cases reported positive and are taking treatments for the disease at various hospitals, an official at the camp said.   REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA - Tags: HEALTH) - GM1E7261J8E01

One venture supported by One Billion Lives is optimizing cancer treatment protocols in India. Image: REUTERS/Ajay Verma

Adaire Fox-Martin
Executive board member, SAP
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Sustainable Development

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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, revitalised 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 programmes. And we can integrate social enterprises into our supply chains and see our own social impact grow.

Corporate spending significantly outweighs CSR (corporate social responsibility) spending. This means that many organisations 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 is to deliver continuous innovation for our customers and 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.

Two sides of the same coin

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. SAP’s flagship One Billion Lives initiative is founded on the belief that large corporations must play a role in addressing the world’s biggest problems.

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 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.

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