Sustainability is often seen as a moral obligation, but not as a dimension of success. How can we reframe sustainability as crucial to business success?
If we look at what is happening globally, then we see that climate change is actually an urgent planetary problem. Just in the past ten years, we have seen record-breaking fires, famines and storms. And this has to be addressed by businesses too. We at SAP are calling it the ‚Green Line‘, where it needs to become a core part of business not only to gain profitability (top line) and operational efficiency (down line) or business model innovations but also to take climate action. That should become the sustainable norm for companies. The shareholders will expect it, the consumers will expect it, the customers will expect it. It won’t happen just because it is ordered top-down or because there is a compelling event like regulations passed in the EU or America or Asia, it has to come from within an organization to live a sustainable enterprise philosophy.
You’re leading the sustainability product initiative „Climate 21″ at SAP. What does the project want to achieve?
SAP is a market leader in enterprise software. We have 440,000 costumers around the world. 77 percent of the world transactions touch an SAP system. In that sense, we are able to help our costumers to reduce their footprint by unlocking their enterprise data. The product footprint could be carbon or water or land use. If we allow this product footprint information to be exchanged with the various costumers and their consumers, it gives them a competitive advantage and accelerates their journey to a low-carbon future. For example, in the future, a sustainability ledger could capture how sustainable a company operates compared to its competitors. This is where we envision this project to take us in the long run. We believe we can help customers to make their companies more sustainable.
Other than the Project Climate 21, what is SAP doing to transform itself in a sustainable company?
We use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a common global framework for our efforts on sustainability. We believe that steering a company holistically – considering the financial, economic, environmental and social impacts of corporate actions – leads to better outcomes. As a software company, we want to make sure that our data centers are powered by 100 percent renewable energy. We have signed up for a science-based 1,5°C emissions reduction target and plan to become carbon-neutral by 2025. Last but not least, we were the leaders in introducing integrated reporting. We do not only present our balance sheet and financial information, but also report on sustainability dimensions, like gender equality and emissions.
Implementing the Green Line – Climate change is a huge challenge of the 21st century. What can companies do to become more sustainable and address climate action? SAP’s Climate 21 project aims to make an organization’s ‘green line’ as important as the top and bottom line and embrace sustainability as a new dimension of success.