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Corporate Practices, Customers, Products: Fostering the Sustainability of Each

gordon and grafIn 2009 I visited SAP’s Walldorf-Germany headquarters and learned about the company’s 3-legged stool of sustainability:  SAP’s own corporate operations (programs ranging from rooftop rainwater collection to halving employee travel), customers’ operations (enabling them to track and reduce negative impacts), and product design (efficient coding that reduces data center emissions). Since then, I’ve shared this broad-based profitable sustainability strategy with other TFI clients to inspire their Lean and Green approaches. But it was time for an update. So, I asked CSO Peter Graf if that “3-legged stool” still stands. It does.

First leg of stool: In-house environmental and monetary savings SAP has been on a long journey to show the connections between positive environmental and financial impact. I remember participating in SAP’s 2009 Sustainability Report’s interactivity features, designed to engage stakeholders in meaningful sustainability discussion and analysis. The 2010 report received an “A+” GRI rating by adding sustainability indicators and metrics (Renewable Energy, Business Health and Culture Index, and Employee Satisfaction). “This year,” says Graf, “SAP reached out to the financial community by combining its Annual Report and Sustainability Report in single document — highlighting the connections between non-financial performance like Employee Retention with financial performance. This details the business case of the financial benefits of sustainability.”

Since 2007, SAP reduced carbon emissions in absolute terms by 20% even though the company grew by 20,000 employees. Per person, carbon was reduced by 30%; by Euro of revenue, by 50%. Today, 62% of SAP’s global electricity purchases are from renewable sources: 100% in North America, 60% in Europe, less in Asia. Overall, these and others of SAP’s sustainability moves have avoided operational costs of US$285 million since Dec. 31, 2007.

Graf shares some interesting new projects, yielding financial and environmental savings:

– Reducing the environmental impact and cost of air conditioning: Investments in LED fixtures and intelligent lighting in the Palo Alto facility dims windows when the sun pours in. – Facilitating use of electric vehicles: In June 2013, the Bay Area Climate Collaborative recognized SAP and Google with the top award for “EV-Ready Business.” As an example, SAP provides wired and wireless chargers for employees’ and visitors’ electric cars. – Reducing commute impacts and costs. In 22 months of SAP employees using TwoGo, employees drove 625,000 fewer kilometers, emitted 88 fewer tons of carbon, saved on fuel and maintenance, and enhanced resale value — all valued at US$55M. TwoGo is an SAP software tool that uses algorithms to match commuters into carpools in an entirely automated fashion using iPhones, the Internet, or employees’ corporate calendars. Graf says that TwoGo (now available to organizations for purchase) creates so much interest because of the triple bottom line: profit, environment, and social. “Employees want to get to know each other, and doing so in the casual setting of carpooling is very effective,” said Graf. SAP’s incentives for employees using TwoGo include reserved parking, a dollar donated for every mile shared, and the chance to ride with the CEO (who uses TwoGo).

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