RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – As Red Hat changed its world-famous red fedora logo this week, it’s also time for SAS to change some branding – its slogan
Rather than “The Power to Know,” how about: “The Power to Do Good.”
It’s easy for journalists and the rest of us to be cynical about big corporations and free enterprise in these days of Wall Street greed and growing income disparity. After all, a major political party is betting its future on moves embracing socialism.
SAS, however, is different, demonstrating commitment to improving the human condition while at the same time making money.
The Skinny’s recommendation comes in a week when news also emerged that cofounder and CEO Jim Goodnight – a very active 76 years old – said he had no plans to retire.
That means SAS can be expected to deliver the goods when it comes to philanthropy.
A series of recent initiatives show that cofounders Goodnight and John Sall believe in paying it forward. Of course the $3-billion-plus global software giant based in Cary has reasons to support initiatives such as new ones introduced Sunday at its Global Summit in Dallas that are bringing artificial intelligence and other tools to educators. SAS is well aware there is a growing shortage of highly skilled workers and researchers needed for its specialty: Data analytics. (In North Carolina alone there are more than 31,000 open high-tech jobs, says the NC Tech Association.)
So by working with such institutions as North Carolina State and LSU, the privately held firm is investing in providing training that produces talented graduates that can be hired.
Expanding education opportunities, SAS also is going to be working with Boys & Girls Clubs to introduce children to coding.
“Analytics is changing work and our current and upcoming workforce as we know it,” Goodnight said in a statement about the latest initiatives in Dallas. “But humans will always be the heart and soul of innovation. Our commitment to analytics education from kids to educators to professionals unleashes the power of learners to build a better world.”
This kind of paying forward is hardly a new trend for the company. SAS philanthropy as well as from Goodnight and Sall individually ranging from education to wildlife preservation extends well beyond workforce investment. The company also supports the Data for Good movement. In January, SAS joined Red Hat in calling for expansion of Pre-K programs.
In December, Goodnight wrote about his commitment to education and SAS’ growing Curriculum Pathways program.
“Much of what SAS does to support education focuses on putting children on track to bright futures. More than 20 years ago, as efforts were taking off to integrate more computers into classrooms, I was concerned about the lack of quality online educational resources. We needed to engage those students, the first generation of digital natives, with interactive resources that mirrored how they consumed information outside of school,” he wrote.
“We formed a division comprising master teachers, software developers, designers and other specialists to tackle the problem. This division is now known as Curriculum Pathways. It provides interactive, online resources and mobile apps for the core subjects of English Language Arts, math, science, social studies and Spanish, mapped to individual state standards.”
Here’s another example you might not know about: SAS is a major supporter of the Special Olympics, which recently put on a global competition.
So why the investments?
I asked SAS spokesperson Shannon Heath continues to invest so much money in programs such as the Special Olympics.
“SAS commits time and resources in areas we believe will make a lasting and positive impact in the world,” she explained.
“As you can see on our site, Dr. Goodnight has built a company that wants to empower and inspire with trusted, innovative analytics. This is why education and data for good continue to be important to our brand.”
Here’s what that site declares:
“Connecting analytics and advocacy to create something new, better, purposeful and lasting.”
This isn’t boasting; it’s commitment – with dollars and cents.
“Simply put, we believe data and analytics can make lives better,” Heath added. “That’s why we’re proud to be part of the Data for Good movement, which encourages using data in meaningful ways to solve humanitarian issues around poverty, health, human rights, education and the environment.”
By support Special Olympics, Heath points out:
“With the Special Olympics, we’re able to provide insights related to operational efficiencies, while also generating behavioral insights based on health data to help drive societal change. ”
Launched in 1976, SAS has grown from $138,000 in revenue to more than $3 billion. It has nearly 14,000 employees, more than 5,000 of which are based at a growing campus in Cary.
Many are the reasons for this success, especially its expertise and quality of product in the growing field of analytics. SAS annually invests 20 percent or more of its revenue in research and development. Few firms bet so much of their future on a tech horizon beyond the next quarter. For example, SAS said it would invest $1 billion in further development of artificial intelligence. Now SAS is broadening that commitment to education. For years SAS has sought to create an environment in schools to make STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) a higher priority.
Let’s get real. Any company, any person has faults. Mistakes are made. Humans are humans, and companies must make a profit or die.
But SAS has the power to do good and does so. Plenty of it.
Whenever – or if – Goodnight ever retires, philanthropy will be an important part of his legacy.