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SAP walking the talk

Active Contributor
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In a [blog post|/people/franz.hero/blog/2009/04/14/what-are-they-thinking-part-2-about-sustainability] titled What are they thinking!?! Part 2 about Sustainability, Franz Hero of SAP said:

"SAP will reduce CO2 emissions per employee per 60% until 2020. This will be achieved by:

- less travel

- a different company car policy

- better facility management

- investing in communication infrastructure

- Green IT

- and other measures.

This is a very ambitious goal but we can only create credibility in the market if we as SAP also behave in a very sustainable manner. Personally this means I will give back my SUV and will replace it by a much more fuel efficient car next month."

I have differentiated the components of the reduction plan to ask the next questions:

- which of these components has the most potential?

- which components will be the hardest to achieve

- how will SAP measure "green IT"?



Former Member
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You ask some good questions, however I don't think there are any easy answers.

Working out which of the components you describe has the most potential requires that you know what the current CO2 emissions are and understand the potential for their improvement so that you can work out which has the most.

But none of this is possible unless you know how to both calculate and then measure the CO2 consumption. For example although a different company car policy might result in the purchase of more fuel-efficient cars, many people don't have them. Also SAP could (I really don't know if they would) change the company car policy by abolishing them. This would reduce the "company" CO2 emissions but in reality would only shift the emissions somewhere else. So when calculating the company improvement should you include the CO2 emissions of commuting for all employees? The point is that measurement of CO2 emissions is not easy.

As to which is hardest to achieve, again you have to do more detailed analysis to work out which to do. For example, take better facility management. Suppose SAP is thinking of investing in retrofitting building automation systems that could reduce the energy costs of heating/cooling and other building systems. Before you make such investments you need to work out the cost and benefit of implementing the solution and then compare it with alternative investments, e.g. better communication infrastructure, such as telepresence, that should cut down on travel. Also, for illustration purposes, suppose each option cost $500k - the same as your annual sustainability improvment budget. Next, suppose that building automation generated a positive financial ROI in five years and telepresence in two. However the CO2 reduction of building automation, in absolute terms, would be 50% greater than for telepresence. How do you choose which to do as you don't have the budget to do both?

Also with Green IT. You need to agree what's included. For example is it just data centers or should it include personal computers? For example, SAP has 45,000+ employees most of whom have at least one computer - they all consume energy. Also, should you include how "sustainable" the equipment is? There are many regulations around the world on electronic waste disposal designed to protect landfills.

I know that SAP is working on sustainability solutions which I hope will make these kinds of difficult and complex decisions easier to make as well as more transparent.


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Hey David,

I have to admit to being a little perplexed and disappointed with you answers to Jim's questions frankly.

In answer to Jim's first question you conclude with:

So when calculating the company improvement should you include the CO2 emissions of commuting for all employees? The point is that measurement of CO2 emissions is not easy

I think we all know that measuring carbon emissions is not easy - as to whether to account for emissions of commuting for all employees - that is surely a matter of agreeing standards of measurement.

Now back to Jim's question - which of the components has the most potential?

In answer to Jim's 2nd question you said

suppose that building automation generated a positive financial ROI in five years and telepresence in two. However the CO2 reduction of building automation, in absolute terms, would be 50% greater than for telepresence. How do you choose which to do as you don't have the budget to do both?

Do you have kids David? If you do, go ahead and put that question to them. Go ahead. I'll wait. If you don't have kids David let me answer that one for you. You go for the CO2 savings every time - unless you want to tell me that SAP puts profit ahead of the planet's well-being but you are not telling me that David. Are you?

As for Jim's 3rd and final question

with Green IT. You need to agree what's included

You are saying SAP hasn't even decided what Green IT is? Wow.

The situation is a lot worse than I thought.

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Hi Tom I appreciate your reply.

I work in SAP's standards team so I totally understand and agree with you that measurement of CO2 emissions is not easy and that standard ways of measuring CO2 emissions are needed. However, a standard is only worthwhile if it both fulfills the requirement and is widely implemented. I've personally had the experience of developing "standards" (before I worked for SAP) that met a real need but only had a few implementations and so the significant time and effort I spent in developing the standard was, ultimately, wasted. SAP completely understands the need for sustainability standards generally and for standards around CO2 emissions in particular, but we are still working out where we can most usefully invest the resources available so that the work we do results in standards that are actually implemented and don't sit on the shelf - it's not a straightforward thing to do.

You ask if I have kids. Yes I do. I would also like to protect the environment and reduce global warming. One idea I have is to put solar panels on my roof in sunny California. However, the roof consists of 48 year old wood shingles. It doesn't leak, but will need replacing soon. So, if I were to install solar panels I would need to replace the roof at the same time. Quite an expensive proposition. I also have one child. For the last few years, I've been funding my child's university education. This has stopped me from installing solar panels since I couldn't afford to do both. I hope you will agree with me that I made the right choice in deciding to invest in my child's education.

Businesses face very similar problems. Every business, including SAP, is constrained in what they can do by the resources and funds they have available - particularly in these stressed economic times. This is why the amount of money that can be invested in sustainability initiatives is limited even if there might be a positive return on investment and the benefit to the environment is substantial. Choices always have to be made. That said, SAP has many initiatives designed to make SAP more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint because it's the right thing to do - more details will be available in due course. I believe that SAP genuinely wants to "walk the talk" and make itself more sustainable which is why we announced a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions down to year-2000 levels by the year 2020 - see [].

SAP has also been thinking a lot about Green IT, but unfortunately we're not quite ready to talk in detail. I'd be interested to know what you think the scope of Green IT should be.


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(Obviously what follows is my personal opinion, not my company's)

I think you are missing the goal of my original question, which was to request details on how SAP plans to achieve their announced CO2 reduction goals. It is difficult to believe a corporation could make such a dramatic public statement, and then return queries with the spin you have been producing, rather than outline measurable steps you plan to take.

Let me make it a little easier for you. SAP is building a new headquarters office in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. The last time I was there, I saw plans describing this as a "Green Building". How much energy reduction, and carbon emissions reduction, does SAP expect to achieve? As an engineer, I expect to see numbers, or number ranges, not waffling.


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Hi Jim

Perhaps I should have started by also saying that my reply was my personal opinion. I also understand that you are looking for information on specific SAP initiatives, such as the new Newtown Square building, and the impact they will have. Unfortunately I, personally, don't have that information but we're working on it. You might want to also note that SAP's new sustainability report for 2009 will be published in May which will contain more information on SAP's sustainability initiatives.

I also did not intend my reply to be spin and I apologize if it came across as such. I was actually trying, perhaps not very successfully, to respond to the three questions you asked: which of these components has the most potential; which components will be the hardest to achieve; and how will SAP measure "green IT"? I did not read into any of these questions a request for detailed information on specific SAP sustainability initiatives.

So rather than give answers I don't have, I was trying to be helpful by explaining the process you need to go through to reach the answer. The basic points were that you need to know how to measure the impact of an initiative to work out its potential and you have to work out what it takes to implement an initiative before you decide which is hardest to achieve. Both of these combined with all the other constraints under which individuals and businesses work mean that difficult choices sometimes have to be made that can prevent you doing something you really want to do even if you know its the right thing. From Tom's reply to my original post it seems that he doesn't get this which surprises me given his knowledge and experience - I do hope I'm wrong.

I actually agree that my response on Green IT was not very specific, but as I said in response to Tom's post, SAP has done a lot of work on Green IT but we're not quite ready to talk about it so I couldn't say much.

I've found this exchange interesting and enlightening. It's provided me with a different perspective .


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Hi Jim

In my last couple of replies I said that SAP wasn't quite ready to talk about Green IT. The reason was that we were about to announce the SAP Green IT Community which has been announced today, 20th April 2009. If you want more information on the community and the SAP Perspective on Green IT I've just posted a blog, see [] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken];.

Please post any questions you have on that blog and I will try and answer them.


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Hi Tom,

I've been following this conversation with great interest obviously, as what SAP proposes to do and would like to be as a Sustainability exemplar is of direct concern to me as an employee, as a sustainability advocate, and as a member of this community.

And while I understand and appreciate your role in challenging corporate thinking, I must admit that I was unpleasantly surprised to see you descend into something that sounds uncomfortably like personal attack on another member of our community. In that regard, I must intercede and remind you that it is a bit of a break in what I called the netiquette of "ad hominem" when using a statement such as:

Do you have kids David? If you do, go ahead and put that question to them. Go ahead. I'll wait. If you don't have kids David let me answer that one for you. You go for the CO2 savings every time - unless you want to tell me that SAP puts profit ahead of the planet's well-being but you are not telling me that David. Are you?

But please feel free to turn the anger spotlight on me.

I have kids. 5 of them to be exact if we are getting personal. And I sometimes think about whether I could/should be questioned or held accountable in society for having such an unusually large (in these days) family, and whether there is deliberate and detrimental environmental impact to having such a large family. I, of course, may justify their numbers by sharing that some of the more adult of those children are already heavily engaged in sustainability education, advocacy, and active exemplary behavior, working to make for the planet's well-being. But I also know, that as a responsible parent, I am constantly called to make decisions about how our family funds are allocated. I use energy efficient bulbs, appliances, drive little, recycle, use minimum cooling and heating, consume much less then any in our neighborhood and yet, have not solar paneled my home yet, because I am choosing my children's education first and am still in learn mode about the best solution wind? solar?. Have I also put profit above the earth's well-being? Perhaps we can discuss further at Sapphire.

But in the interim, an apology to David would be an appropriate response.

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Hi Tom & Jim

We will be launching our 2008 sustainability report in just a few weeks which will provide more detail. Without giving away too much -- we will be creating the opportunity to ask these questions directly and have them answered.

Now for my own two cents -- businesses and other organisations are being asked to reduce where ever we can so that we may achieve global climate stability at something like 550ppm or a maximum 2 degrees increase in the long range.

Like governments, many businesses are setting long range goals like SAP's to be realized by 2020 & beyond. I note my old employer British Airways set its target for 2050. Last year I wrote about Vodafone's target here: . What is humbling about their story is that whilst they admittedly cant see all the way to 2020 they are making themselves accountable and will resort to offsets if necessary. As Jonathan Porritt said at the time -- the next few years will tell a lot about who can actually achieve the long range targets.

Of course 2020 is beyond the normal planning horizon for most businesses. Granted, businesses with long term operating assets like airlines and energy utilities might have to take a longer term view when planning production. Whats important is that businesses commit, invest to achieve the target and be accountable to it. Thats why I think you'll see more companies with a long range commitment and short term milestones a long the way. In the long run many are either betting for a technology shift or a resort to off sets.

Worth noting that SAP is one of the few if not only company in the tech sector reporting & targeting scope 3 - that is beacuse it is the biggest source of emissions. But this too adds to the complexity because indirect emissions from the supply chain are that bit more difficult & complicated to control than more direct sources.

Please do look out for the 2008 report coming up next month and please do bring these questions forward on line there if you will.

In the meantime thanks for your interest and concern -

its a very important issue and SAP too needs to do its part.


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This is good information; looking forward for the chance to review it. Whether or not the SAP report is public within 10 days (when ASUG09 and Sapphire start) please add your name and comments to the wiki page for planning a community session around environment and sustainability:


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Marilyn and David,

I walked away from this discussion after David's reply so didn't see any of the following replies until now (is there a way to subscribe to updates to a blog post, via email for example? If not, there should be).

Marilyn, I did not meant this to be a personal attack on David and reading back over my comments, while I agree they were aggressive, I don't believe they could be classified as a personal attack tbh.

Having said that, David, if you took it as a personal attack, I apologise unreservedly.

What I was attempting to do by introducing the question of children was to say, this is such an easy question to answer, ask any 6 year old and they will tell you that the right thing to do is to go for profit before planet.

I understand business pressures, shareholder expectations, quarterly reporting, etc. but frankly life on the planet doesn't stop being destroyed just because it is not easy for businesses to have the right focus.

If businesses continue to put profit before planet, the consequences for all of us are pretty grim.

Former Member
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The questions posed by you are very relevant and the way we answer them may influence others to think similarly and further improve the answers!

It has a potential for a ripple effect.

Thinking about the first question:

We know travel from home to office and back involves quite a number of individuals.

Hence this appears to have high potential to save.

Distance travelled, Number of trips, speed at which travelled in city, stoppages in city, number of passengers per vehicle - all these may be the contributing factors for the fuel consumption per person.

In addition, travel may include:

- customers travelling to the company's office, company personnel travelling to customers' office within a location;

- official travel to outside places

- personal travel by employees.

If in some way employees are encouraged to reside nearby thereby reducing the distance to be travelled;

periodically allowing employees to work from home thereby reducing the number of trips;

providing some incentive to include persons staying nearby to travel together thereby increeasing the number of persons travelling in a vehicle

- all these may help to reduce consumption of fuel to some extent compared to what is consumed now.

From a state of one per vehicle, if one moves to three in a vehicle, the savings may be around 2/3, in certain number of trips!

From 5 days at office, if it is changed to 3 days at office and 2 days from office, the savings may be 2/5th of certain number of trips!

From a residence at a distance 30 Kms, if some people move to a range of 20 kms, the savings may be 1/3 of certain number of trips!

The 60% reduction may be achievable in this way and many more by 2020, that is 11 years from now!

Such a measure might influence personal travel also to go green in some way or the other, we can hope.

Hence 'Less Travel' as a measure appears to me to have the most potential for savings.

The other two question would require similar analysis, I hope.

Sam Anbazhagan