Monday, 2 March 2009

SAP Sustainable Business Focus

SAP this morning announced a long-term strategic focus on sustainability, covering both its own operations and also the solutions it offers to customers. The announcement coincides with SAP co-CEO Léo Apotheker giving a keynote speech at CeBIT this week addressing sustainability and related issues in the context of information technology.

The announcements from SAP cover three areas:

- Together with TechniData AG, SAP has unveiled expanded solutions for environment, health and safety (EHS) management. SAP will own and sell a full line of co-created EHS applications to be offered under a single name, SAP® Environment, Health, and Safety Management (SAP EHS Management).

As well as delivering sustainable business processes, the company is also helping its customers practice green IT by enabling them to reduce the energy footprint of SAP solutions in their data centres through consolidation, virtualisation and other optimisation services.

- To demonstrate its own commitment to sustainable operations the company announced its target of a 51% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions from its 2007 baseline levels by 2020. This will put SAP back to its approximate year-2000 emissions level of 250,000t CO2. SAP initiated its first global GHG inventory in 2008 and will report performance and progress towards the target in its annual sustainability report.

The target will apply not only to SAP’s direct emissions, but also to indirect emissions such as business travel, which was 42% of SAP’s total footprint in 2007.

- The company has formed a new cross-functional sustainability organisation to lead its efforts. The new Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Vice President of Sustainability Solutions will lead a global team that overseas all sustainability initiatives (internal and customer solutions) and will report directly to a SAP Executive Board member.

The press release says that 'SAP understands that its long-term success is directly related to both appropriately addressing sustainability internally and to enabling its customers to meet the same challenges'. It's good to see that the company has reached this conclusion, but it has taken some time to get there. I met with SAP in May of last year to talk about their efforts around green IT and was not very impressed by their rather laid-back approach to providing customer solutions, which was that they would provide what the market needed when the demand was there.

As far as it's internal efforts to be more green are concerned, the company produced its first sustainability report only last year. It has been responding to the CDP annual request for information since 2004, but only on the basis that the responses are not published, which rather defeats the object.

Lets not carp, though. Perhaps the most significant part of the press release is a quote from Léo Apotheker; "As the leader in business software, we also deliver solutions that help other businesses achieve clarity across their operations and better manage their sustainability performance. This is why we are making a strategic, long-term commitment to operate our company in a sustainable way and to help businesses address social, environmental and governance challenges on a global scale.”

SAP certainly can, and should, be a significant player in proving enterprises with the means to measure and manage their carbon footprint and environmental impact.

By the way, if you're a SAP watcher I would recommend taking a look at the SAP-related blog Feeding the SAP Ecosystem from PAC. It's a market that my friends at PAC know better than most.

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