When Purpose-Driven Missions Align, the World Benefits

SAP’s purpose is big and bold: help the world run better and improve people’s lives. To deliver on this commitment, SAP partners with some of the world’s most impactful international organizations, including The World Economic Forum (WEF).

Since 2017, SAP has been part of the highest community level — Strategic Partner —  at the WEF, consisting of 120 leading companies. Only the most recognized corporations with demonstrated track records of good governance and alignment with forum values are invited to join this group. Together, they’ll take on the world’s biggest challenges because we believe that they are the biggest opportunities.


Heads-of-state, CEOs, icy mountain tops, snow plows, tall boots: The World Economic Forum is known for their Annual Meeting hosted every January in Davos, Switzerland. For one week every year, leaders from government, business, and civil society come together in the alpine village to discuss how they can collaborate to improve the state of the world. With the Annual Meeting as their annual flagship event, the Forum has been a catalyst for positive change through global partnership for almost 50 years.

While members of the SAP Executive Board have attended Davos since 2005, partnership with the Forum goes far beyond The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. No organization can do it alone. SAP prioritizes partnership year-round and takes a holistic approach to working with the Forum. By sharing the unique skills, innovation, and expertise, it accelerates their — and in turn, SAP’s own — ability to achieve impact.

Technology and automation are changing the way we work and live, they are disrupting entire systems of production, distribution, and consumption. SAP wants to ensure everyone has the relevant skills to thrive and innovate and secure meaningful work in a digital world. With a proactive, optimistic, and actionable plan to address these opportunities, SAP’s unique perspective is highly sought after. Let’s look at a few examples.

Global Dialogue

At the global level, the Annual Meeting plants the seeds for ideas that spark action. Politically, discussions in Davos are credited with moving diplomatic solutions forward in such charged 20th century conflicts such as Greece and Turkey in 1988 and in the 1992 meeting of South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. In 2018, a record number of heads-of-state attended, including U.S. President Donald Trump, European Prime Ministers and Presidents Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Marcon, and Theresa May, and Indian PM Narendra Modi.

Social and economic initiatives also percolate, and discussions in Davos have inspired some of SAP’s most innovative and impactful programs. For example, the (RED) campaign to eliminate HIV/AIDS was launched at the Annual Meeting in 2006, and has subsequently raised more than $350 million. SAP has supported the initiative since 2011, including providing an analytics dashboard to help local and grassroots implementation partners simply understand how financial investments are being used for disease prevention and treatment.


Discussions in Davos have inspired some of SAP’s most
innovative and impactful programs


In 2016, SAP became the first multinational technology company to receive global gender equality certification. The now standard-bearer EDGE Certification was first launched at Davos in 2011 and SAP is often cited for its data-based approach, leadership, and concrete progress to increase women in leadership positions.

SAP’s first partner on its award-winning Autism at Work program was first introduced to SAP in Davos. Thorkil Sonne, founder of specialisterne, is a fellow of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a flagship program of the Forum, highlighting and advancing leading models of sustainable social innovation.  Today, the company’s Autism at Work program is a global leader for neurodiversity in the workplace. The initiative currently includes nearly 120 colleagues filling over 20 different positions and is active in nine countries. SAP has a corporate goal to employ 650 colleagues on the autism spectrum by 2020.

Beyond the Annual meeting, the conversation continues at their second global signature event in China, the Annual Meeting of the New Champions — also known as summer Davos — with a strong focus on technology and innovation, and at Regional Events throughout the rest of the year in Africa, Latin America, ASEAN, and MENA. Each regional is an opportunity for SAP leaders to continue or build on Davos discussions, with a strong anchor to local government and business agendas.

In 2016, the regional World Economic Forum on Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and was focused on “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.” It’s no coincidence the event was located there, given that Rwanda is known as a “regional high-tech hub and boasts one of sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest GDP growth rates.

In Kigali, SAP kicked off its second year of Africa Code Week with a media briefing with Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda ICT & Youth minister. Since its inception in 2015, Africa Code Week has benefited 1.8 million young Africans from ages eight to 24 through software coding and digital skills. This year, SAP anticipates participation from 36 countries across Africa, reaching up to 600,000 youth.

Addressing Global Issues: Research, Policy, Action

Just as the United Nations (UN) has defined 17 Global Goals  to create a world without poverty, a healthy planet, and a just, peaceful society for everyone, the Forum has identified 14 interconnected “Systems” that reflect the global, regional, and industry challenges facing the world today. Ranging from environment and natural resource security to the industry systems that determine the effectiveness of supply and demand, partners like SAP, along with government and non-profit constituents, join together to collectively influence and address these challenges and opportunities together with the Forum throughout the year. They do this through research, strategy, and policy recommendations and through impact-oriented projects.

In alignment with its business strategy and goals, SAP is engaged in the following systems:

As well as a member of the Tech Pioneer community and a founding partner of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, SAP Concur is also a key contributor to the Aviation, Travel, and Tourism industry, which continues to make a real difference to the lives of millions of people by driving growth, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and fostering development and tolerance.

Let’s take a closer look at SAP’s participation in the Future of Education, Gender, and Work. Forum publications such as the Future of Jobs and the Global Gender Gap Report provide the facts to frame the discussion and set the global agenda for how the world addresses these business-critical issues. SAP contributes expertise, as well as business data and commitments to this important work.

You can’t impact what you can’t measure. Building on the critical insights derived from the research, business such as SAP want to see action and impact. SAP is a founding partner of an initiative of IT companies within the Forum — including CA Technologies, Cisco, HPE, Tata Consultancy Services, and Salesforce — that seeks to address job displacement arising from automation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Launched in Davos 2018, the SkillSET online learning portal consolidates key elements of the individual partner companies’ training libraries. Users will have access free of charge to the most up-to-date, self-paced training materials from these global IT leaders. Courses offerings range from general business skills to introductory digital literacy to more advanced topics such as cybersecurity, Big Data, or Internet of Things. The initiative is committed to reaching 1 million people with resources and training opportunities by January 2021.

Finally, the Forum’s media platform reaches millions of people around the globe. SAP CEO Bill McDermott and Claudio Muruzabal, president of SAP Latin America, both contributed significant insights and thought leadership to the conversation around the changing nature of work and our approach as responsibilities business leaders to address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Read more from McDermott and Muruzabal:

The world requires new levels of collaboration. It requires organizations to continue to acknowledge that no one has all the answers or can dominate innovation. That we will only overcome these challenges through partnership and bringing our best to the table. For SAP, that means continuing to help organizations become best run. SAP’s 91,000 employees representing more than 130 nationalities will continue to help “Improve the State of the World” by guiding organizations, governments, and businesses to transform, and — as importantly — challenge them to innovate to succeed beyond traditional constraints.

The challenges we face in the 21st century may be complex, but the way forward is clear: When purpose-driven missions align, the world benefits.

Lourdes Rosales is SAP partner manager to the World Economic Forum.