Incubating Circularity: Social Enterprises in Action

Based on our population’s current consumption levels, sustaining our growth trajectory would require the ecological resources of 2.3 planets by 2050. How can a regenerative and equitable circular economy shift the way we collectively consume?

Circular Economy & Social Impact

In our current economic system, we extract resources from the earth, consume them, and throw them away. The circular economy is an alternative to this linear process – tackling climate change and other global challenges like biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.

By upgrading to a model that maximizes the value that we extract from our precious materials, we can better ensure the well-being of present and future generations, while respecting the boundaries of our planet. This transition will require changes across all industries, but manufacturing and waste management will need a more significant overhaul. Within these two industries, marginalized and indigenous communities have historically been the most severely impacted. Ironically, these groups often hold the keys to developing scalable, regenerative, and equitable solutions for communities worldwide.

They can own the solutions and scale their efforts by shifting the power and decision-making dynamics to engage historically marginalized communities. Ultimately, the broader population benefits from local experience and collective wisdom – enabling a large-scale, systematic shift to become much more tangible. At Pyxera Global, we believe a transition to circularity should center around people and communities. It should generate business value while simultaneously stimulating ‘reduce, reuse, repurpose’ mindsets to enable a better environment for future generations. By reimagining entirely how we produce and consume, we can design waste and pollution out of our industrial systems, keep materials and resources in use for as long as possible, and regenerate natural ecologies so that they can sustain future generations.

SAP, Pyxera Global, and Circularity

In 2019, Pyxera Global brought its focus to circularity, with the core belief that this new economic model must prioritize those who exhibit ‘reduce, reuse, repurpose’ behaviors and are frequently the most disadvantaged and marginalized by our current linear economy. Historically marginalized populations shouldn’t just benefit from a just and regenerative transition – they should be able to own it.

By this time, the strategy of enterprise application software giant SAP was well-entrenched in making a circular economy a business imperative. By accelerating innovation into a suite of software solutions, SAP enhances its customers’ ability to embed circular principles into core business practices. These solutions allow customers to capture, analyze, and learn from data around product design, material tracking, supplier transparency, waste mitigation, and more, ultimately leading to regenerative decision-making across value chains.

SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) implemented a refreshed strategic focus in early 2022, which included a renewed focus on climate action and circular economy initiatives. Pyxera Global and SAP CSR’s circular economy ambitions converged around the SAP Social Sabbatical, an award-winning portfolio of global pro bono consulting programs that pair talented SAP professionals with social enterprises around the world. Through tailored consulting projects, the Social Sabbatical increases the capacity of these enterprises to do their work more efficiently and ultimately achieve greater impact.

For the past year and a half, Pyxera Global and SAP have worked to enable the just transition to a circular economy by empowering social enterprises that are closing the loop on materials in their own communities by leveraging circular business models. By targeting under-resourced communities, these projects, activated through the Social Sabbatical, stimulate job creation and build business acumen amongst social enterprise professionals, leading to a multiplier effect within communities.

Spotlighting Social Enterprises

Here are a few examples of recent Social Sabbatical host clients that demonstrate how accelerating circular business models leads to lasting societal change:

Morivert is addressing local deforestation in Mauritius by upcycling used paper into a variety of products for local institutions such as hotels, banks, and schools. Due to personnel constraints and increased demand for their products, Morivert struggled with handling these business challenges. The Social Sabbatical team delivered a SWOT analysis, business process improvements, and a five-year business plan to help the company achieve its growth targets.

“The SAP Social Sabbatical program has been a game-changer for Morivert. The dedicated team not only provided valuable insights and expertise but also ignited lasting change. We’re still in contact, ensuring that our journey towards sustainability remains impactful and inspiring.”

– Mujahid Emambokus, Founder and CEO, Morivert

moreloop is minimizing waste in Bangkok’s fashion industry by curating quality surplus fabrics from garment factories across the city and matching them to customer demand through an online platform. In operation since 2018, moreloop identified a clear path for significant business growth, but they weren’t sure how to capitalize on it. The Social Sabbatical team developed a growth strategy that enabled moreloop to communicate with both their internal team and investors more effectively.

Silaiwali is upcycling surplus fabrics from Delhi’s garment industry into handcrafted home décor items made by Afghan women refugees currently residing in India. While Silaiwali’s business model was taking hold, they were suffering from operational inefficiencies and lack of clarity on how to grow the business. The Social Sabbatical team reviewed all of Silaiwali’s current processes and proposed improvements for more efficient pricing and production. The team also built a business plan for Silaiwali to adapt their model in Canada, where many of Silaiwali’s women artisans have migrated.

“The ease with which the SAP team interacted with the Afghan women refugees who comprise the workforce of Silaiwali was commendable. Traditionally conservative, the Afghan ladies opened up easily with the SAP team despite the language barrier. The team trained us in simple ways to organise our business. Their intervention has immensely helped us, and we have continued the practices they suggested and implemented during their stay. We have a better grip on our business due to the help we got from these three wonderful people. We sincerely thank them. Sometimes simple changes bring about significant outcomes. The SAP team showed us that we knew was there but ignored to look at.”

– Bishwadeep Moitra, Co-Founder, Silaiwali

Unplastify is addressing plastic waste across Latin America by designing immersive educational programs for individuals (students, government officials, and corporate employees) to engage with the plastic crisis in their own backyard. While Unplastify had collected significant amounts of data regarding the impact of its programs, it was not streamlined into specific categories or indicators. The Social Sabbatical team worked to create a more efficient measurement system and to track Unplastify’s impact over time, allowing them to more clearly illustrate their work and grow their reach.  

“Unplastify’s goal is to have a REAL impact on plastic pollution. All our programs are centered in guiding communities, companies, operations towards change.  To measure our impact is key to understand first where we stand, what are we doing that works and how to grow towards more impact. Measuring what matters. Since our work with SAP we took a deep dive in our way of measuring impact, which we did, since we started almost religiously, but… with difficulty and involving few members of the team in the reporting. Now, with OKRs that we had previously established and with the final matrix we co-created to measure impact with SAP, most of the team is involved in the process. This has only improved the process of reporting but also holds everyone accountable in the organization towards the goals we believe will accelerate systemic change and reduce single-use plastics.”

– Rocio Gonzalez, Co-Founder, Unplastify

Kosmotive is working to end “period poverty” in Rwanda by manufacturing reusable feminine hygiene products and increasing access to digital menstrual hygiene management information. But the company grew rapidly, leaving their operational processes lacking the kind of efficiency they needed to meet the demand they were seeing for their products. The Social Sabbatical team connected all the data recorded by Kosmotive from raw material purchase to distribution, including storage and production, increasing their ability to track sales, meet revenue goals, and more reliably grow their business.

“The SAP Social Sabbatical program, with their experienced and dedicated team, helped us in creating a sustainable data management system that works, and they tailored our needs and enabled us to have an organized and secured data system in a very effective way. They empowered us with skills and tools that were missing to leverage our system to better serve the community we are dedicated to serving. We are currently using data management tools and we have translated from paper-based reports to digital reports with easier information sharing between team members. We are indeed grateful for Peter, Rutika, and Maryam’s support toward the growth of Kosmotive.”

– Opportune Uwacu, Operation & Finance Officer, Kosmotive

What’s Ahead

Transitioning to a circular economy will require a coordinated effort across all global industries. As we face the challenges of a changing climate, increasing scarcity of the resources we rely on, and excessive consumption rates, it’s clear that we must work to sustain our growing population for future generations. Through the Social Sabbatical program, SAP and Pyxera Global work to create strong partnerships with community-driven employees of local social enterprises to make the circular economy a reality in their own backyards.