Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 5 April 2020

SAP's chief executive says companies will see increased activism from stakeholders and employees

Activists have been broadening their scope of engagement with companies, prompting them to think long term

Former Amazon employees and unions demonstrate outside an Amazon Go store in Chicago to highlight what they claim is an "alarming injury rate" among warehouse workers in the company's facilities.Getty Images
Former Amazon employees and unions demonstrate outside an Amazon Go store in Chicago to highlight what they claim is an "alarming injury rate" among warehouse workers in the company's facilities.Getty Images

SAP SE’s co-chief executive officer said companies will continue to face activism not only from shareholders, but increasingly from employees and consumers.

“This will continue to be something that CEOs will have to understand and balance across the different stakeholders,” Jennifer Morgan said in an interview with Bloomberg News’s Stephanie Flanders on Tuesday at Davos.

The Walldorf, Germany-based company attracted the interest of activists at Elliott Management Corp., which revealed a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.3 billion) stake when SAP announced a change in strategy in April.

Activists have been broadening their scope of engagement with companies. Protesters have been pressing BlackRock Inc. to divest from fossil fuel companies and others that contribute to climate change, while employees at Google have protested over the conduct of executives.

Morgan -- who became co-CEO in October alongside Christian Klein and is the first female chief executive of a DAX-listed company said -- said user experience is set to be the new battleground.

“If a company is not competing on experience its a race to the bottom”, she said. “When you’re in a consumer-led economy like the United States, for example, the disruption that we see happening for traditional industries is happening in the experience gap”.

Morgan used fitness company Peloton Interactive Inc. as a good example of tapping into someone else’s experience “gap” saying they provide not just a better service but a real experience that people will pay more for.

Updated: January 23, 2020 10:21 AM

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