SAS, the global leader in analytics, has signed up to the Microsoft Partner Pledge. The Pledge commits organisations to work together to make digital innovation a force for good. To achieve that, the pledgers look to increase tech talent, enhance diversity and inclusion, and help to deliver a sustainable world.
James Chadwick, ISV Director, Microsoft UK, commented, “We welcome SAS’ decision to sign the Microsoft UK Partner Pledge and look forward to working together on the programme’s core pillars of growing talent, enhancing diversity and inclusion and shaping a desirable world.”
On the first pillar, SAS is now an ambassador for Microsoft UK’s digital skills initiative, part of the global initiative that Microsoft launched in 2020 to help 25 million people gain digital skills. The SAS efforts in this space are limited to promoting and offering digital skills to employees and customers.
In the wider community, SAS already offers the SAS STEP Programme. This is free online learning for jobseekers, with courses ranging from basic data literacy to advanced data science. It already has an Armed Forces Covenant to help current and former Armed Forces personnel and their families pursue analytics training and employment opportunities. This was recognised recently with a gold award.
On the second pillar, SAS will look to improve executive sponsorship of inclusion. Improve internal processes such as recruitment, promotion and other management practices to improve diversity in its workforce across gender, race and disability. While its focus is on improvement, there is no mention of benchmarks or defined metrics that would indicate its success.
However, these exist with its latest Diversity and Inclusion report (oddly from 2021) on the website, noting the firm has 36% female employees (Management 32%), above the industry average. However, 77.1% of the employees are “White”, 22.1% above the industry average. 4% of US-based staff have self-identified as disabled.
To support its sustainability efforts, SAS will use the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator for itself and its customers. It will make sustainability a part of its supplier and customer engagements. It will achieve this by including sustainability as a core part of strategic partnerships but does not offer up how it will achieve this or what it entails. The company will also provide transparency about its products and services around the carbon footprint.
SAS already invests in sustainability programs such as its Data for Good initiatives, which include sustainability programmes such as tackling deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
In addition, it noted that it would pledge to build AI responsibly and ethically. It will take an approach consistent with design principles such as fairness, accountability, reliability and safety. It will aim to deliver AI systems that are secure and respect privacy, as well as being inclusive and transparent.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
Roderick Crawford, Senior VP of SAS Northern Europe, commented, “These initiatives are in line with the values, culture and ambition SAS already displays, but I’m delighted to formalise what we’re trying to do in these key areas by signing up to this Pledge with our strategic partner Microsoft.
“We are acutely aware of the skills gap in our industry, and a great way to help resolve that is to attract more people into technology that are currently under-represented. We also have a duty to continue to push boundaries in the adoption of sustainable practices and solutions, to help protect the planet.”
This is a step in the right direction for SAS’s ESG initiatives. However, making promises is not the same as delivering results. There is a lack of qualified KPIs against which SAS can be measured in the press release. It may have these internally, but many other firms are not publicising them.
At some point, firms must show the way and prove they deliver real change around DEI and ESG. Hopefully, in the next few months, SAS can expound on what it is achieving.