SAP Applications Focus on Sustainability, Green IT

Updated: SAP launches broad-based sustainability initiatives that include a line of EHS management enterprise applications and a commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. SAP is also introducing the internal role of chief sustainability officer to oversee its green IT efforts. In some ways, SAP's latest efforts to make green IT products mirror those of companies such as Microsoft.

SAP announced a long-term sustainability strategy March 2 focusing on the company's internal operations as well as its line of applications for enterprise customers.

In the announcement, SAP said it would produce a new solution, named SAP Environment, Health and Safety Management, designed to make its customers' operations more environmentally friendly. SAP Environment, Health and Safety Management is a line of applications created by SAP in partnership with TechniData, a company that provides EHS solutions.

The SAP EHS Management application is designed to help enterprise customers ensure that their organizations and supply chains more effectively meet EHS requirements and corporate sustainability policies. The software has been integrated into SAP Business Suite, but will also work with non-SAP solutions.

SAP has previously entered into partnerships to boost environmental sustainability. On Feb. 2, SAP announced an agreement with Landis+Gyr to create software that would give customers increased access to cost-saving energy data.

Click here to read about what Microsoft has been doing to boost enterprise customers' sustainability and energy-efficiency initiatives.

According to SAP, the company's long-term sustainability strategy has its roots in the most fundamental of things.

"We have a moral obligation to start with ourselves and ensure that our business operates in a transparent and accountable manner, leaves a minimal environmental footprint and reaches out to improve the social situation of others," Leo Apotheker, co-CEO of SAP, said in a statement. "As the leader in business software, we also deliver solutions that help other businesses achieve clarity across their operations and better manage their sustainability performance."

SAP has announced that it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from 2007 levels to year-2000 levels by 2020, using its own software to monitor and manage sustainability targets for its operations. The key solution here will be the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a carbon-accounting tool, which SAP states it will employe rigorously.

The area of SAP's operations responsible for emitting the most greenhouse gas is travel, which produces 42 percent of SAP's total footprint. The company plans to reduce its carbon footprint via abatement, and not via purchasing carbon offsets.

As part of the SAP's efforts to cut its greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half, the company will appoint 13-year SAP veteran Peter Graf to become its first chief sustainability officer and executive vice president of Sustainability Solutions. Graf will oversee all sustainability-related initiatives.

"To be a credible supplier of green IT solutions for its customers, SAP (or any supplier) needs to have its internal story and behaviors shaped up. So getting their sustainability report and a CSO in place are business prerequisites to executing on new elements of their product strategy," Christopher Mines, an analyst with Forrester Research, said in an e-mail. "In addition, all IT suppliers these days are seeing environmental requirements cropping up in customer RFPs [requests for proposal]."

Mines added, "There is some PR value in being seen to be green. ... At this point, it's more avoiding the risk of being perceived as a laggard."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with quotes from an analyst.