Photo: Torbjörn Pedersen


Tackling the UN Global Goals the Nordic way

The global tech industry has long been accused of operating under its own rules, with gender equality one of many bones of contention. That image is changing though, thanks in part to a new breed of female executives like SAP’s Ann Rosenberg who’s behind an initiative to help implement the UN Global Goals.

Ann Rosenberg is in a hurry. And not just because of the many commitments you’d expect to fill the diary of a leading executive at software giant SAP. As the head of SAP Next-Gen – a global, innovation with purpose, community that helps companies and citizens connect with academia, the startup ecosystem and purpose-driven partners to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations – she also knows that things need to, and do, move very quickly. 
“To really be able to fulfill the SDGs, we need governments, city mayors, company CEOs, start-ups, universities and citizens to come together and really lead with purpose,” Rosenberg says. It’s her firm belief that the only way the SDGs can truly succeed is with the help of a common purpose in leadership that involves everyone, and not just those at the top. 

"Science-fiction thinking is becoming a really big thing"

To enable this, she’s helped launch a series of initiatives at various conventions across the globe. In the past few months alone, during visits to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, Davos for the World Economic Forum and SXSW in Austin, subjects as wide-ranging as sustainable fashion, access to education, gender equality, zero food waste, the eradication of poverty and the empowerment of citizens have all been addressed.
“On a business level, we work with corporations, looking into their supply chains and working to get them to take more responsibility, because for all of us, sustainable living will become the new normality. If citizens act, leaders will listen. 

One of the many panel debates Rosenberg hosted and participated in at SXSW“For me, the SDGs provide a guiding framework which brings together sustainable development leaders in government, industry, academia, NGOs and institutions, and encourages them to join forces to move in a common direction,” continues Rosenberg, who, during a busy week in Austin participating in panel debates and discussions, covered many of the topics at SXSW.

Goal #5, for example – gender equality – was particularly apt, as the event coincided with International Women’s Day on 8 March.

“We’ve all seen how gender equality has accelerated in 2018 and now we’re taking it to next level. I work a lot with The Female Quotient, which advances equality in the workplace through collaboration. Together we’re advocating to recognize women as thought leaders, and empower the next generation of purpose-driven female leaders, which is something Sweden and Denmark have been really good at.

“Every industry is changing, and I think by having women lead many of those changes, we’ll increasingly see the role of women become redefined in society. I’m confident in saying this, because I think we’ve seen what can be achieved in the Nordics. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is possible.”

With an in-tray this bulging it’s a wonder that Rosenberg still managed to find time to author a book connected with finding innovative ways of dealing with future challenges. Science Fiction – A Starship for Enterprise Innovation is an engaging look at what she calls “Innovation 4.0.” 
“Science-fiction thinking is becoming a really big thing, which is why we came up with the idea of the book. I think it’s time for people to use their imagination in the form of sci-fi to come up with the big ideas that will help reach the global goals,” Rosenberg says.

“By traveling and meeting people face-to-face, it’s much easier for me to empathize, listen and connect the most amazing minds and ideas”

Originally from Copenhagen, Ann Rosenberg has worked at SAP for 19 years and is currently based in New York. With a long record in international roles she’s spent more hours than many in the air.
“By traveling and meeting people face-to-face, it’s much easier for me to empathize, listen and connect the most amazing minds and ideas to unite people with movements to reach the SDGs,” she says. 

On a personal level too, she may have left her home city a while ago, but her passion for the country remains undiminished. 
“I love Denmark. Every time I get the opportunity I go and visit my mother, who still lives there. Denmark is a bit like a fairytale for me and I still miss it – the beautiful architecture of Copenhagen, the whole hyggething, and I think the fact that it feels so tiny to me after being in the US for so long now,” Rosenberg says, allowing herself a brief reverie in her hectic schedule.

It doesn’t last long though. With that, she’s off again, always with both eyes focused firmly on the future and the next goal. No wonder she’s in a hurry.

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