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SAP Sets Sustainability in Motion
With the launch of Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management, SAP wants to provide companies with holistic views into their sustainable strategies and actions.
Posted Jan 19, 2010
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Managing sustainability performance has become a mainstream task in business, said Peter Graf, SAP's chief sustainability officer, during a teleconference announcing the software company's newest application -- Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management. Tracking sustainability activity among enterprises typically means "chasing information," Graf said. Managers spend time on the phone, email, and in spreadsheets, manually gathering information on areas such as materials consumption and labor practices. It can be a time-consuming process that still doesn't result in a holistic view of the company's sustainability performance. 

Given SAP's recent focus on the issue of sustainability and its impact on enterprise eco-systems, SAP has brought forth an application that automates what Graf calls "mundane tasks" and provides clear reporting and analysis. 

According to Graf, the Sustainability Performance Management application complements the following SAP solutions: 

  • SAP energy & carbon impact solution,
  • product safety and stewardship,
  • sustainability supply chain solutions,
  • environment health and safety,
  • sustainable workforce, and
  • IT infrastructure.

The inner-workings of the sustainability system include:

  • Co-innovation: SAP has worked with a number of enterprise customers to create and collaborate upon a central KPI library so that enterprises can see how their metrics stack up to likewise companies. 
  • Analytics: Using the intelligent power of Business Objects, users, as Graf said, will be able to "turn [sustainability] data into insights."
  • SAP out-of-the-box integration: The solution is integrated with core SAP technologies, which is ideal for those companies that live and breath in their ERP systems, says Stephen Stokes, a vice president of sustainability and green technologies at AMR Research. SAP assures customers that the performance management solution will be compatible.
  • Non-SAP data: The system can also integrate with non-SAP systems. Regardless of the back-end system, customers can use SAP's application as the reporting engine.

Printer solution company Lexmark is one of the companies co-innovating the sustainability application with SAP. John Gagel, Lexmark's manager for sustainable practices, environmental, health and safety said on the conference call that not only did SAP ask for feedback, but it did a fantastic job of incorporating suggestions into the product. "We came to a realization that this was going to save us a tremendous amount of time," Gagel said.  "A major challenge with sustainability is your ability to drive sustainability deeper and deeper and truly make it part of the culture. This tool allows you to take the time to do that." Not only does it automate manual processes, but the KPI library allows for strategic action to be taken, he said. 

Stokes says that SAP Business Objects Sustainability Performance Management is fairly comprehensive; however he points out there are some missing pieces in the area of next-generation energy management. "The focus is shifting away from sustainability about carbon to focus on emissions," he says. Stokes refers to a point made by Graf in that, in the future, performance management solutions will likely all incorporate sustainability. 

"What SAP allows is rapid and easy download of the reports in good time and with high quality," Stokes says, giving a general overview. "It's not unique in offering it, but [SAP] has thought about [sustainability] in a comprehensive way." Stokes also points to SAP's efforts to obtain certification from accreditation bodies such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as being notable.

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