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Closing the Gap in Economic Equity with Global Pro Bono

Black business owners strengthen business practices through the support of SAP employees

SAP’s Pro Bono for Economic Equity program was founded in partnership with Pyxera Global in late 2020 as part of the company’s response to the social justice movement. Responding to the social justice call, SAP leaned on their expertise in leveraging pro bono consulting to create meaningful change as a tool to support entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. Throughout the company’s decade-long partnership with Pyxera Global on the SAP Social Sabbatical, SAP employees have contributed over 359,000 pro bono hours to nearly 500 different enterprises and organizations around the world. And as one of the world’s largest business application software companies, creating solutions for entrepreneurs is a core part of SAP’s DNA.

The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States produced massive negative economic effects that disproportionately fell on people of color, and especially Black communities, which had fewer resources to call upon to weather the prolonged shutdown and slowdown in consumption.

All entrepreneurs face similar challenges in starting and growing their businesses: acquiring start-up capital, hiring, and retaining talent, marketing products or services on a limited budget, and preserving and increasing cash flows. However, structural racism has created additional and insidious obstacles on the Black entrepreneurial journey, resulting in economically unequal outcomes that are in many ways only now being acknowledged by the mainstream. Many Black business owners battle the effects of lower starting wealth, limited access to capital, mistrust of traditional banking institutions, and a relationship gap, all of which stand in the way of their success.

Our Approach

Over the course of 2021, SAP and Pyxera Global engaged with Black entrepreneurs across the United States, Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom to grow and adapt their small businesses successfully. SAP enlisted teams of its employees to work virtually with entrepreneurs facing the negative effects of both structural racism and COVID-19, including revenue loss, the need for major pivots in their business plans, and the unequal distribution of government assistance programs. 

SAP and Pyxera Global worked together to develop meaningful partnerships with Black entrepreneur support organizations to identify businesses in need of corporate skills and expertise to address critical business challenges. Acting as pro bono consultants, SAP employees leveraged their diverse areas of business expertise to provide substantive recommendations and solutions for over 50 small Black-owned businesses in a variety of fields and industries, from technology to healthcare and from fashion and apparel to food and beverage, among others.

The Outcomes

The consulting engagements focused on a broad range of issues and opportunities affecting the future of the businesses and included projects that sought to transition business operations to meet customer needs within the environs of the pandemic and an increasingly virtual marketplace. Following the SAP Pro Bono for Economic Equity program, 98% of participating business owners felt that they were more prepared to address future challenges that their company might face. 

The SAP team helped me understand the best way to build the next generation of product, allowing us to get to the next level and stay affordable. They did a ton of research about Cyber Pop-up and helped us create a roadmap that set us up for organizational growth […] I had no idea I’d get the level of output from the program I received. I was blown away from day one!

Dr. Christine Izuakor, Founder and CEO of Cyber Pop-Up

When asked how they expect to engage with marginalized communities following the program, SAP employees gave responses both internal and external to SAP; their intentions included supporting local BIPOC-owned businesses, volunteering or offering consulting experience to local organizations supporting social justice efforts, mentoring under-represented colleagues at SAP, and attending meetings and events organized by SAP’s various Employee Network Groups. Due to the success of the program, SAP has now expanded to work with Indigenous-owned small businesses in Canada in 2022.  

According to reports following the program: 

  • Over 85% of participating employees agreed that the program offered important insight into how to advance the cause of social justice in their personal and professional lives. 
  • 9 out of 10 participating employees agreed that the program helped them understand SAP’s role in tackling social justice issues.
  • 95% of participating employees intend to stay in touch with their client organization.
  • Over 85% of participating employees expect that transferring the skills they learned to their jobs will lead to positive business impact for SAP.