For the last four years, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index has named Germany-based business software giant SAP as the leader in the software sector for upholding ethical, environmental, social, and governance values in products and services. In 2008, SAP's Executive Board defined the company's social sustainability priority as connecting global value chains to the base of the economic pyramid. The board decision represented a long-term strategic commitment to alleviate poverty by accelerating economic development in previously excluded markets. To support this priority, SAP is investing technology, expertise, and cash to connect underserved markets to the global value chain.
This case study explores a collaboration in Ghana between SAP and Paris-based microfinance development organization PlaNet Finance. Announced in June 2009, the Shea Value Chain Reinforcement Initiative uses microfinance, education, and technology to improve the incomes and living conditions of women who pick shea nuts and women who process nuts into shea butter. Women are enrolled in the initiative through two local microfinance organizations, Maata-N-Tudu (MTA) and Grameen Ghana (GG).
The shea nut is the seed of the tropical African shea tree, which grows wild and has fatty nuts that yield shea butter. Some call this the poverty-coping tree, since anyone can go to the bush and harvest fruits. Shea butter is mostly used in food and cosmetics. Although producing shea nuts and butter is one of the most accessible income-generating activities for rural women in Ghana, their incomes are unstable due to a lack of market information, inadequate business knowledge, and low negotiating power.
The goal of this case study conducted by the Global Supply Chains Management Forum is to monitor the initiative's achievements during the last 18 months, discuss key challenges, and consider how to position the initiative for future success. Research for the study involved reviewing industry reports, conducting phone interviews with key program partners, and field interviews in Ghana with stakeholders such as program partners, shea women and buyers.
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