Jan Gilg is not the only person struggling to explain to his children what we are doing to our planet, but he is one person who can make a real difference and lead others to do the same. As president of SAP S/4HANA, Gilg is responsible for SAP’s flagship products in industry solutions, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and digital supply chain.

“My role empowers me to make things happen,” the executive, who views himself as a change agent in a powerful position, says. If you consider that 70 percent of world transactions touch an SAP system in some way, it is clear that SAP software has a huge influence on the global economy. With that power comes responsibility.

“We need to have ambitious goals, because the challenges we face are immense,” Gilg says. “There is a huge demand to rethink how we live and work. We must become sustainable to survive.”

This mindset is critical for Gilg, who is also a member of SAP’s Sustainability Council. Members are nominated by the SAP Executive Board and are responsible for integrating sustainability into their core business area. Gilg’s role is to weave sustainability into the product portfolio.

One of Gilg’s favorite success stories is Queen of Raw, a textile marketplace startup in New York using a textile sustainability application based on SAP S/4HANA. “Waste is a significant problem for the textile industry,” says Gilg, “making it a perfect target for sustainability efforts.”

Each year around $120 billion worth of textiles from across the supply chain goes to waste, causing huge environmental issues and economic loss. For some companies, it swallows up to 15 percent of their bottom line annually. Queen of Raw matches suppliers with unused textiles to potential buyers. The company worked with SAP to develop an easy-to-use automated process on a powerful back-end system.

This sustainability app uses tools like blockchain and machine learning to identify products, confirm the integrity of the suppliers, and match them to Queen of Raw’s 175,000 global users. The system also provides an environmental cost-benefit analysis when a successful match is made.

“Queen of Raw isn’t just doing good for the sake of good. It makes economic sense,” Gilg says. “With tools like this we can show people the return on investment and the value of the circular economics.”

Gilg says it’s not enough to tell our children we must protect the sea we swim in and the trees around us. We must show them that we are making a difference. “It’s up to us to decide what kind of a difference we make. That’s why I’m proud to tell them that I am a part of a company that looks out for the world they will live in.”

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