SAP is a company that makes its living providing information tools for businesses to better understand their business through quantitative reporting (including sustainability reporting) and enterprise resource planning software. Hence, one would expect their Annual Sustainability Reportto be a highly readable and information-rich document, which is exactly what it is. It also embodies sustainability principles in its execution.
Rather than putting the report in the typical PDF format, which might tempt some people to download and print it out, they left it in HTML, thus adhering to the “cloud” philosophy of reading online and saving paper.
The information is divided into two general areas: sustainability of their internal operations, and sustainability accomplishment of their customers enabled by their products and services, both of which are consistent with their stated purpose, “to help the world run better.”
Internally, the company has set of goal of reducing their CO2 emissions to year 2000 levels by 2020, even as the company continues to grow. Unfortunately, their GHG footprint increased by 7.7% last year as compared to 2010, to 490,000 tons. Total energy consumption and data center energy also increased. All other areas, including employee and social commitments, as well as economics, showed improvement.
SAP really excelled in helping their customers integrate sustainability into their core businesses, which is where they clearly spend the majority of their time and effort. They say about as much in the report. “We believe that serving our customers provides us with the greatest potential to create positive change. Our solutions focus on five key business areas: energy management, sustainable supply chain, operational risk management, sustainable workforce, and sustainability reporting and analytics.” The report also contains numerous videos of customers from companies such as Solvay, Dow Chemical, Unilever, Air Products, Lexmark, and Baker Hughes, explaining how SAP has helped them achieve their level of sustainability performance.
In the energy and environmental resource management area, for example, they helped their customers save an estimated 5.7 million tons of CO2, or 8 billion kWh, resulting in $550 million in cost savings. These impressive targets were reached through their Energy and Environmental Resource Management solutions which provides things like real time access to energy use data, alerts issued at various monitoring threshold levels and smart metering analytics. It’s worth noting that their customers are undoubtedly claiming the same savings, so it is important not to double count these claims when aggregating at the inter-company level.
In the sustainable supply chain area, SAP helps companies manage some very large supply chains while lowering the cost of compliance with health, safety and environmental regulatory requirements. Their software also helps oversee recycling operations. Alltogether their customers’ products touch an estimated 900 million consumers who are receiving safer products as the result of this information technology. Additionally, some 5 million employees are protected as the risk of the operational risk management software through incident reduction protocols.
On the HR front, their software is useful for communicating sustainability principles, goals and objectives to the workforce resulting in both a more sustainable and a more highly motivated workforce.
Finally, in the sustainability and reporting analytics area, they point out that every one of the top ten companies in the Dow Sustainability Index are SAP users. That claim, while impressive on the surface, might actually undercut some of the achievement we spoke of earlier, since it reveals that these companies are clearly sustainability-oriented in and of themselves. Though at the same time, it also gives SAP the right to brag that companies of this nature reach out to them for their ERP solutions on a consistent basis.
Customers claim they have saved up to 50% of data collection costs using applications such as SAP BusinessObjects™ Sustainability Performance Management. It is the first solution of its kind to be certified by GRI, and it automates over 85% of quantitative GRI indicators through integration to core SAP software.
Other solutions like the SAP® Carbon Impact OnDemand solution help global organizations measure, reduce and report greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts across both internal operations and the supply chain.
SAP has also partnered with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to launch an innovative Emissions Reporting tool, which also allows users to gather and report their carbon emissions in a somewhat condensed version of SAP Carbon Impact.
SAP is clearly a company with a solid grasp of sustainability principles and practices and has partnered with a number of great companies to achieve impressive results. Their tools clearly allow their customers to go about their business more efficiently in many aspects of their operations. It would be nice to see them “eat a little more of their own cooking” and perhaps deliver some better numbers next year for their internal operations. That would show a genuine commitment to sustainability even where the top line is not involved.
RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Now available on Kindle.
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