Having just returned from my first up-front exposure of the SAP world at Sapphire this week, I’m left to sort though all of the sessions and news announcements to see what I thought was the most interesting. At first thought, I’d have to say it was the company’s approach to sustainability.
The idea of “going green” is nothing new for the company; late last year, SAP said it wanted to help its customers drive corporate sustainability with its ERP software. But it was SAP’s approach, which leans more towards the business benefits of sustainability rather than the environmental, that grabbed my interest during a roundtable session Wednesday.
“It’s not about green philanthropy per se,” Peter Graf, SAP’s chief sustainability officer, said in the session. “It’s about business, so I think creating a business case for sustainability is an important job.”
Graf stopped short of saying the environmental aspects weren’t as important. He did emphasize their benefits, though he mentioned how SAP had a moral obligation as a market leader to indulge in sustainability, but the ultimate goal was more to focus on the business side.
As such, Graf discussed the company’s recently-unveiled 2008 Sustainability Report, as well as the SAP Sustainability Map, a tool meant to take its ongoing stakeholder conversation about the sustainability needs of customers to the next level. Moreover, SAP also put up a Sustainability Stakeholder survey to further discussion and feedback.
The report itself incorporates an interface based on Xcelsius software, which stakeholders can use to analyze and view SAP’s reporting data in accordance with their needs (i.e., readers can analyze green house gas (GHG) emissions reporting data from SAP by entity or employee, worldwide or regional, by scope and by source of scope emission).
But the report, Graf said, is only the first step. “The goal needs to be that we get more visibility around these things in more real-time scenarios,” Graf said. “People will want to see this in a much more frequent way.”
Hence the Sustainability Map. “The Sustainability Map allows for a more structured approach to understanding and communicating customer requirements,” Graf said in a statement at the time of the report’s unveiling.
Of course, SAP raised the curtain on the report to coordinate with its announcement that it has acquired Clear Standards, Inc., an innovator of enterprise carbon management solutions. With the move, SAP said it hopes to speed up its ability to meet carbon management requirements of organizations for better transparency by the public. The company plans to allow Clear Standards to tap into its financial and other data stored in such applications as Business Suite 7 and its Environment, Health and Safety Management app.
So, naturally, I was left to ask myself, What’s the goal here? Well, the company already has plans in place to reduce its total carbon footprint back to its year-2000 level by 2020, or a 49% reduction of its 2007 baseline GHG emissions. (The company was able to reduce its footprint by 6.7% last year compared to 2007.)
The idea of visibility with the Sustainability report and map certainly fit in well with Sapphire’s slogan of “It’s time for a clear new world,” which in turn points towards the reduction of carbon emissions and hiking up the visibility. Needless to say, I’m interested to see how things will pan out on both ends.