Group shot of funded internal SAP startups

SAP to Create Solution for Transparent Sourcing

“Passion is a great motivator,” according to Adaire Fox-Martin, founder of SAP One Billion Lives and a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customers Operations. “But permission to act on it is the vehicle that channels that passion into real and positive impact for millions around the world.”

The SAP One Billion Lives initiative emerged four years ago from the recognition that people come to SAP to not only deepen their abilities but to continue their personal evolutions. The program came alive by empowering employees to apply their professional skills to individual social issues they are most passionate about.


Under the SAP One Billion Lives initiative,
ComTrace will be fully funded to help CPG companies
gain transparency into their supply chains;
five additional teams will receive
support to further develop their ideas


Since launch, SAP One Billion Lives has evolved tremendously. It is now an annual, systematic program that moves aspiring entrepreneurs through four key growth stages as they work on their innovations. Teams are given time, mentorship, and funding to turn a seedling of an idea into a sustainable business venture that will make a difference – now and in the future.

In 2019, six teams graduated to the final round and will receive investments to continue their journey.

Having demonstrated viability of their venture with three completed proof-of-concepts, ComTrace was selected to receive the seed investment from SAP.iO Venture Studio. In collaboration, the team will build a solution for transparent and ethical supply chains and to scale their business.

The project was founded by James Veale and Nitin Jain to enable traceability and transparency in supply chains through a cloud platform supported by blockchain technology. The platform will support producers and enable organization such as consumer products  goods (CPG) companies to better understand from whom they are sourcing raw materials, manage risks, avoid exposure to exploitative labor, and support sustainability, ethical practices, fair trade, and more.

“More than 80 percent of the world’s raw material global supply chain runs on SAP systems,” explains Veale. “In 2018, Nitin and I started looking into leveraging the strengths that SAP has in this space to help CPG and manufacturing companies choose and reward ethical and sustainable suppliers and provide incremental income to some of the poorest producers in the world. Those were the origins of our venture.”

“Along with soy beans, one of the first raw materials we looked at was Southeast Asian palm fruit, which is crushed and refined to make palm oil. Thankfully, the industrial scale deforestation that led to soil erosion, flooding, and massive air pollution has now mostly ceased,” Veale shares. “But we still see some small holder farmers nibbling away at the edges of virgin rain forest, and over time this has a huge effect on ancient rain forest size. With ComTrace, a buying company will be able to quickly understand what percentage of their palm oil cargo comes from sustainable growers — those that are not involved in deforestation — and we can reward those growers because CPG companies only want to buy form ethical and sustainable sources.”

Regulations like the recent Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act in the U.S. have tightened import controls, allowing customs to detain and seize any product thought to have been produced with child labor. On the other hand, consumer activism is drastically shifting buying patterns and sustainable product sales are expected to reach $150 billion in 2021.

Despite these headwinds, present supply chain management systems struggle to trace co-mingled supply chains, where ethically sourced raw materials are mixed with materials of an unknown origin very early. This leads to the deterioration of transparency due to the lack of information to make ethical and sustainable sourcing choices, which ComTrace is seeking to restore.

“Access to the network of SAP customers in early stages of idea testing was incredibly valuable to us,” says Jain. “We knew there was a real issue that had to be resolved, but it was only when we became immersed in real-life environments within which organizations operate that we were able to adequately shape our thinking around our solution.”

In addition to ComTrace, five other promising teams will receive support from across SAP to further validate the viability of their impact ventures by delivering proofs of concepts with customers and partners in 2020:

  • Circular Marketing: Pascal Le Nahedic and Loic Maquinghen will work on a solution that could eliminate 2,500 tons of marketing waste per year per customer, saving millions to companies in marketing dollars while protecting the environment.
  • PODium: A team led by Diedre O’Riely, Vidya Gugnani and Sujit Adichikat will work toward providing tools, solutions, and services for the differently abled, focusing on their mobility needs and experience while visiting crowded areas like arenas, exhibitions, and malls.
  • Saving Lives: Ian McAlpine, Radim Bacinschi, and Edward Yan will refine their idea around saving lives through smart exit signs that, in the event of an emergency, will guide everyone in a building to safety.
  • Dehazmat: Louisa Liu, Andy Yao, Alex Xiao, Peter Song, and Benny Ren venture will work on a solution to monitor, control, and create an emergency response platform for hazardous chemicals to keep the 1.4 billion people in China who come across the hazmat value chain safe.
  • Eco-Friendly Business Travel: Annika Berger, Felix Hoehn, and Nora von Thenen will double down on creating a solution that will guide and reward business travelers for sustainable travel options.

“I am proud and delighted to see SAP One Billion Lives grow into a valuable program,” Fox-Martin said. “This is the future of work in large organizations that employees now demand, customers expect, and investors are starting to measure. The maturity of ideas and the commitment the teams have shown are awe inspiring. Deciding which teams to invest was extremely hard. At the accelerator in Potsdam, the teams showed commitment that blew everyone away; our employees from India chose to spend Diwali, the most important festival in India, working on their venture. I am honored that our employees see the value in the program.”

SAP’s vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. In line with this enduring purpose, investments in 2019 focused the participants around four challenges closely related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), including humanitarian aid, displaced and marginalized workers, sustainable cities, and transparent supply chains. The approach worked well, withparticipants from similar projects gravitating toward each other, offering different points of view, and contributing to a wealth of truly strong projects with a significant potential for impact.

About SAP One Billion Lives

The aim of SAP One Billion Lives is to help solve the world’s biggest problems by bringing together the best the company has to offer — people, technology, data assets, and a vast ecosystem — to develop a portfolio of lean, sustainable, shared-value impact ventures operating at startup speed. The program also drives employee engagement and has increased focus on the customer.

Since its launch in 2016, the SAP One Billion Lives initiative has driven impact to hundreds of thousands of people. Ventures have successfully utilized the best of SAP to drive impact at massive scale — from developing genome-specific cancer treatment protocols in India with Ramesh Nimmagadda Cancer Foundation, which has changed the course of cancer treatments for more than 60 percent of the cancer-affected population in the country, to partnering with Hakusan Corporation to help protect 127 million people from major earthquake disasters, .

In 2019, five social impact criteria were introduced alongside the investment conditions to provide a path to deeper social value creation. Now, investments in SAP One Billion Lives must:

  • Drive transformative social impact by creating more social value in a much better way than the presently available or next-best solution option does
  • Demonstrate community need and readiness for adoption from the communities the innovations will impact
  • Have measurable impact, with reach and scale of the solution as critical factors
  • Ensure value delivery by demonstrating across the team the right skills, a shared passion, and commitment to solving the problem the solution targets