Postcard from Davos: Digital Networks Helping to Solve the Toughest Challenges Facing Humanity
Ah, Switzerland in January. It may be chilly outside, but everywhere I turn here in Davos people are warmly embracing the trend of governments and business working together to solve some of the toughest challenges facing humanity.
They’re also expressing enthusiasm about the role of purposeful spend management in doing so. Over the past several days here at the World Economic Forum, I’ve had the privilege of addressing global movers and shakers from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors on how cloud-based networks are aiding in these efforts. The transparency these digital networks make possible is not only transforming business but helping to achieve worthy social objectives as well.
As Globalization 4.0 revolutionizes the integration of spend management of goods and services across borders, how are digital networks driving purpose throughout the value chain and the wider world? I had the pleasure of discussing this the other day with DisrupTV’s Ray Wang and Vala Afshar. In the interview, we discussed SAP Ariba’s new campaign around “3 Trillion Reasons to Help the World Spend Better.”
The campaign emphasizes the countless opportunities that businesses, linked together digitally, now have not only to manage their spend wisely but to effect positive social change as well. The transparency made possible by digital networks, across hundreds of socially relevant criteria, enables business leaders to align their spend management decisions with the values held dear by customers, investors, employees and other key stakeholders. Check out the interview.
Many of the leaders I’ve met here in Davos have spent the better part of their lives working to effect positive change. Yet some were unaware of the potential for cloud-based analytics to support their goals and create a fairer, more ethical, more equitable world. With the advent of digital networks and their ability to provide visibility into the interconnected operations of millions of buyers and suppliers, organizations can now track potential trading partners on a range of factors.
For example, do they have the necessary governance structures in place to root out forced labor from the supply chain? What is their record as a responsible steward of natural resources? Have they documented a history of contracting with businesses owned by women, minorities, LGBTQ people and other historically underrepresented groups?
The same transparency that cloud-based networks lend to buyers and suppliers in the private sector extends to those in the public and not-for-profit spheres as well. For example, these networks are bolstering the United Nations’ effort to achieve an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.
At SAP Ariba we’re helping our customers to measure progress toward these goals, and we’re proud to be the Patron Sponsor of the U.N. Global Compact’s Decent Work in Supply Chains Action Platform. Through these efforts, SAP Ariba is helping to lead the business world in developing more ethical and sustainable supply chains that lift people out of poverty, eradicate human trafficking, promote gender equality, and provide widespread access to economic development.
These efforts all center on the importance of harnessing data to gauge progress. Businesses accumulate so much data every day that it can be hard to keep up with what it all means. But one thing about data is clear: In and of itself, it’s unbiased. It’s value-neutral. Which means we can leverage it in ways that promote equity and deter biased decision-making.
Diversity and inclusion are crucial goals for many of us, yet some organizations still lack the tools to measure the effectiveness of their efforts to achieve them. Fortunately, the trend here in Davos, as elsewhere, is turning toward greater accountability, broader diversity and fuller inclusion. Women are among the greatest beneficiaries of this trend, as are the businesses who wisely employ them and reap their enormous contributions and talents.
Whether seeking to strengthen a supply chain or solve a humanitarian challenge, the fact remains that one cannot fix what one neglects to measure. Accurate data are essential for making progress toward any worthwhile endeavor. That’s true whether operating a brick-and-mortar business, an online storefront, a government agency, a charitable foundation or a multinational institution. For organizations great and small, the ability to glean meaningful insights from immense repositories of data can make a tremendous difference toward helping the world run better. I’m immensely honored to have spread the word here in Davos over the past few days about the power of digital networks to do exactly that.
The author is chief marketing officer of SAP Ariba, the world’s largest business network, linking together buyers and suppliers from 3.4 million companies in 190 countries.