Intelligent enterprises: Putting purpose and sustainability at the core of business
Today’s businesses must demonstrate how they contribute to helping the world run better, says SAP’s Thomas SaueressigShow transcript
It’s summer 2020, and companies all over the world are facing unprecedented challenges: from the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement for social justice, to climate change and the economy. Thomas Saueressig, Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, SAP Product Engineering, looks at the pressures disrupting all our lives and calls on businesses to embrace sustainability and purpose, and explains how SAP has been enabling intelligent enterprises to help the world run better and improve peoples’ lives.
The New Economy: Thomas, companies all over the world are facing unprecedented challenges this year; can you share your perspective on what feels like a very important inflection point?
Thomas Saueressig: Yeah; I mean, this pandemic absolutely has forced the world to look into the mirror. And COVID-19 has put tremendous pressure on the economy and society, in actually disrupting every aspect of our lives and our work.
Hidden issues of social injustice and racial inequality have been unmasked, especially in the US and spreading globally.
While COVID-19 has accelerated digitalisation, it also has quickened the growing skills gaps with regard to digital skills. And that again leads to more inequalities around the world.
While the world is focused on COVID-19, the biggest challenge of our times remains climate change. And contributing to climate change is the enormous resource-consumption and waste created in our supply chains. These problems aren’t independent, but actually are rather interdependent. They are trans-national, so no single entity, government, or business, can solve them alone. It requires networks of businesses, consumers, government, local and international agencies, working together to solve these problems. So it requires all of us.
The New Economy: Given the interconnectedness of these issues, what do you see as a key foundation for the solutions?
Thomas Saueressig: I think the clear answer here is actually purpose, and that’s more important now than ever. Businesses are being asked to step up and take responsibility. To demonstrate clearly how they contribute to helping the world run better, and show how they can improve peoples’ lives through sustainable, fair practices.
Resilience and profitability still matter. But a third, new dimension, as to how this is achieved, has been added. And this is sustainability and purpose.
The best-run companies of the future will embrace these principles to solve these issues. By using intelligence as the key differentiator. And the ambition is to become an intelligent enterprise.
The New Economy: So, what is SAP doing to enable these intelligent enterprises that run with purpose at their core?
Thomas Saueressig: Yeah, this is actually two-fold: because on the one side, SAP serves as an exemplar, as a role model itself; but also we want to be an enabler for our customers to achieve their goals.
For nearly 50 years, SAP’s purpose has been to help the world run better and improve peoples’ lives. Which means we act based on ethical principles. We innovate and deliver based on ethical principles. But also we support our customers to act, and innovate, and deliver and produce based on ethical principles.
That means for sure that we participate in initiatives like the Equal Justice Initiative. We also for sure actively work on carbon neutrality. With our product portfolio and our customer base, we have the ambition to really also enable our customers to achieve their goals with regard to purpose and sustainability.
And here, in the light of COVID-19, we started to open up our portfolio of products to our customers for free, to ensure for instance that their workers can go safely back to work.
We also started a development initiative called Climate 21, where we basically have a holistic view about the end-to-end value chain, and how to optimise this in order to reduce the carbon emissions.
And the first product actually we released just at Sapphire was SAP Product Carbon Footprint Analytics. With that you can analyse and measure the product carbon footprint; and with that be able to optimise and manage this actively. And there’s way more to come.
Every industry is disrupted with digitalisation. But also COVID-19 for sure is accelerating this. Which means we, together with our partners, provide all the required technology they need to have the next best practices in place.
I truly believe that actually SAP is a company which really lives up to the purpose to help the world run better and improve peoples’ lives. And this is something where we are really taking the pride to move in that direction.