One of the most impressive corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives I have come across is SAP’s sabbatical program. As SAP’s Brittany Lothe, head of the company’s corporate responsibility department, explained to me a few weeks ago, the program is a win-win for SAP and the communities abroad in which its up-and-coming employees work for four weeks. One project, in which a group of employees including Evan Welsh was involved, involved working with itinerant trash collectors in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Welsh and his colleagues worked with a local NGO, ASMARE, to work on the organization’s technology infrastructure, business processes and boost its efforts to sell the beautiful works of art the catadores make out of rubbish.

Rather than sending money or conducting a few token hours of volunteer work, SAP’s sabbatical program helps build economic opportunities and empower the poor in developing countries. But the fact that SAP employees learn new leadership skills, can network with colleagues in other departments and learn about new emerging markets makes this program a winner. I was so inspired that this ended up being one of the favorite articles I have completed for Guardian Sustainable Business. More businesses should follow SAP and pick up where international development agencies too often fall short.

Photo of chairs and table made out of recycled oil drums courtesy

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.