SAP: 'It's about business'
SAP works on sustainability in every line of its business rather than relegate it to “an island of tree-huggers,” Graf said. He estimates 800-1,000 of SAP’s roughly 60,000 employees – about 1.5 percent – work directly on sustainability for some 2,000 customers
Its employees, vendors and customers seem to have sipped the Kool-Aid. According to Graf, 89 percent of SAP employees report their belief that sustainability is an important corporate pursuit. Mention sustainability to an ordinary SAP employee and you may get what I heard: “We have a solution for that.”
As outlined in a SAPPHIRE NOW presentation by Marty Etzel, SAP’s VP of Sustainability Solutions, SAP handles Autodesk’s sustainability reporting and analytics. It provides supply chain and product stewardship solutions for Unilever. It collaborated with The Sustainability Consortium on metrics for corporate social responsibility reporting. It helped Danone (The Euro version of Dannon) reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.
SAP also works with a lot of heavy industry – mining, oil and gas, etc. And it shows up in all sorts of places – as revealed in interesting claims such as: SAP customers produce 70 percent of the world’s beauty and fragrance products. Or it touches more than 70 percent of the world’s beer and chocolate production. Or 86 percent of the world's athletic footwear.
The extent to which its customers seek to go “beyond compliance” certainly varies, though at SAP sustainability drives operational risk management. Graf noted how BP might have benefited from greater consideration of this two years ago in the Gulf of Mexico (although to be sure, the oil behemoth was still reporting large profits just a few months following its environmentally and economically disastrous spill).
As a software solution provider, SAP’s success increasingly comes from playing in world where business value exists in intangible assets, according to one conference speaker, packaged in what co-CEO Bill McDermott refers to as “surreal time.”