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Knocking Down Barriers - the opportunity to make a difference

CEO Steve Hare discusses our new strategy – Knocking Down Barriers. 

"Our aim is to back a generation of diverse and sustainable businesses..."

24 JUN 2021

We all have moments that shape how we think about the world. For me, one of those moments was meeting Stacie at Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project in the North East of England. Stacie was a tenacious teenager full of attitude and ambition, but she’d lost her way a little and got into some difficult situations. She was inspired by the mentors around her and wanted to become a project leader, helping other young people who had lost their way.

But aside from her lack of proven experience, Stacie couldn’t drive - a big barrier to fulfilling the role independently. I met her through Sage Foundation, and I was so impressed by her tenacity, that I asked the charity if Sage could fund her driving lessons. But it wasn’t just money holding her back. She lacked confidence in her basic writing skills so was struggling to pass the written test. I was taken aback by this… not to mention ashamed at the way I had oversimplified the challenges this brilliant young adult faced.

Sage works with millions of SMEs around the world. We see every day the opportunity, sense of fulfilment and stability that taking control of your life can create. But we are kidding ourselves if we believe that opportunity is within easy reach for everyone.

The barriers are complex and multiple. But not impossible to overcome. That’s why, today, we are launching our new sustainability and society strategy – Knocking Down Barriers. Our goal is to tackle societal and economic inequality so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive. We also aim to make reaching net zero carbon a reality for more businesses, starting with our own target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040, with a 50% reduction by 2030.

With Knocking Down Barriers, our aim is to back a generation of diverse and sustainable businesses by focusing on three pillars:

  1. Tech for Good - Tackling digital inequality for innovation, enterprise and progress.
  2. Fuel for Business - Tackling economic inequality, by supporting underrepresented groups.
  3. Protecting the Planet - Tackling the climate crisis by powering sustainable business models.

The opportunity to start and grow a business is a proven route to long term employment, high job satisfaction and wealth creation. This is an area where Sage can make a big difference, given our focus on championing the needs of SMEs globally. We have great partners here including:

  • A three-year, multimillion-pound partnership with MyKindaFuture to provide training and mentorship via Jobcentre Plus to disadvantaged people looking to develop their business ideas.
  • With the Bringing Out Successful Sisters (BOSS) Network to provide training and support for Black female entrepreneurs in the U.S.
  • With Kiva to provide loans, grants and direct support to improve financial inclusion in communities who find it hard to start or grow their businesses.

Building on our longstanding work through the Sage Foundation, we are also committing to knock down the barriers to digital equality and the lack of diversity in the technology sector. We will start with a commitment to provide digital skills learning for 10,000 children in deprived areas in the North of Tyne Combined Authority – where our global HQ is based. Plus, further investment in our own international Futuremakers online learning programme around AI education and awareness.

We also need to play our part in tackling the climate crisis. As well as supporting SMEs to understand and address their environment impact, our ambition is to get to net zero carbon by 2040. We’ll do this by reducing the impact of our business operations, cutting emissions 50% by 2030, and by effectively managing our supply chain impact. Sage will also commit to the SBTi (science based target initiative), the UN climate change Race to Zero and sign up to the UN Global Compact Business Ambition for 1.5°C Pathway.

As we start the next phase of our journey, we’ll be transparent and accountable. We’ll share our learnings in the hope of easing the path for others to follow.

And in case you’re wondering how Stacie got on, she is now a Youth Activity & Outdoor Education Co-coordinator (with Mountain Leader status) at Cramlington and mentoring kids just like the one she was.  Proof if any were needed that given the opportunity – and when we work to remove barriers, everybody can thrive. 

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