SAP Watch

Mar 3 2009   11:53AM GMT

What will SAP’s sustainable software look like?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

SAP named Peter Graf its first chief sustainability officer Monday. He’ll oversee development of so-called sustainable software for customers, as well as lead the vendor’s own ambitious sustainability efforts.

SAP has pledged to cut its carbon footprint in half (currently 513,000t CO2) by 2020. Among other things, the company will focus on virtualization in the data center, and cut back on business travel, replacing it with the company’s telepresence system from Cisco.

But the announcement came with less clarity around exactly what these sustainable applications would look like or when they would be available.

Graf reports to Jim Hagemann Snabe, who’s responsible for developing SAP products and the technology platform. Graf’s will oversee SAP developers, sales and service employees.

Graf said there’s a chance customers could adopt some of the new sustainability functionality through the enhancement package strategy — whereby customers on the NetWeaver platform can download new functionality as they like.

But more interesting, SAP has been stressing that it will start to design and sell software that way CEOs think — in terms of business processes, not acronyms.

SAP’s already embedding analytics in its Business Suite 7 line and will start incorporating analytics into the GRC line, according to executives I’ve spoken with.

So is it too much of a jump to imagine that this sustainable software will combine all those efforts — embedding GRC and analytics into the Business Suite, bundled with new functionality to comply with new regulations?

Graf repeatedly stressed that most companies focus on complying with economic regulations — SOX, etc — but customers need to look to social and environmental compliance as well.

SAP customers account for 1/6 of global man-made emissions, Graf said. In order to get customers to adopt sustainable business processes they have to either make money or save money by doing so, Graf said.

“The point is we are living in a world where you can not only be focused on economics because environmental and social issues have become an intrinsic part of your business,” he said.

For instance, monitoring environmental compliance will require tracking materials through the product design and supply chain to ensure the process complies with a country’s specific environmental regulations.

Social compliance, according to Graf, includes steps like helping companies avoid problems like manufacturing toys with lead in them, or finding child labor in the supplier chain.

Yet, will SAP have some difficulty convincing customers to invest in “sustainable initiatives” given the current economic climate, unless it can prove some hard and fast savings? Is sustainability something your organizations is ready to invest in and do you think SAP can help?

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