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 Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has 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. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, 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 You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.