Climate change is the challenge of our lifetimes. It encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas, and a range of other severe impacts. With 2020 as one of the warmest years on record again, and wildfires, droughts, storms, and glacier melt intensifying, it comes as no surprise that the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2021 points out climate-action failure as a top risk. But there is also opportunity: By early 2021, countries representing more than 65 per cent of global carbon-dioxide emissions and more than 70 per cent of the world economy, have made ambitious commitments to carbon neutrality. In parallel, a growing number of companies are coming up with bold climate targets in line with the goal of limiting warming to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. When pandemic economic-stimulus packages are implemented, there will be an opportunity to promote renewable energy investments, supply chain modifications, smart buildings, green and public transport, and a whole range of other methods to slow climate change. We all have a role to play to ensure a sustainable recovery going hand-in-hand with the transition towards a low-carbon future. Digital technologies can provide the data, insights, and tools to accelerate this transformation.
Leveraging Technology to Drive Sustainable Impact
At SAP, our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. To help customers address climate action, SAP launched the Climate 21 program to build analytical and transactional capabilities into our enterprise applications that can help our customers understand and minimize the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of their products and operations along their value chains.
In May 2020, the German company Döhler became the first customer to go live with a pilot installation for one of their products, allowing them now to trace related carbon emissions for this product back to its roots.
Coming up next is SAP Product Footprint Management. This solution is planned for availability in the third quarter of 2021, to provide customers with product footprint transparency. It will equip them with the insight to reduce carbon emissions across their value chains while enabling them to exchange data with their own customers, suppliers, and business partners — driving transparency across a company’s scope 1, 2, and 3 operations.
In the transition to new sustainable business models, SAP also has a team of SAP Services and Solutions professionals focused on enabling customers to embrace disruption and transform their business through innovation.
One example is FRoSTA, a midsize German company in the frozen-food industry. Based in Bremerhaven, they are actively leveraging intelligent technologies such as the SAP Business Technology Platform and SAP S/4HANA to create end-to-end transparency. The company gives a carbon footprint to its products and subsequently publishes it on its website along the entire supply chain. This is done from the production of ingredients via the retailer to the end user. Based on this data, end consumers can track their carbon footprint when buying from FRoSTA.
Recently, Danone accelerated their stewardship of the planet by transforming the Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) Journey. The new CAPEX approval process, now called CAP, uses SAP Cloud Platform, intelligent technologies from SAP, and SAP HANA to offer an optimized user experience and reduction in maintenance and development costs. It also includes real-time status and analytics reporting on their refocused KPIs on planet sustainability and impact.
Business travel is another key area of focus. According to the research that provides the foundation for the Corporate Travel Sustainability Index 2020 published by SAP Concur, nearly two thirds (65%) of corporate travel decision-makers either confidently claim that their approach is completely sustainable or that sustainability is at least an integral part of their corporate travel policies. Those who rate themselves ‘exceptional’ users of data and information are almost five times more likely to be proficient in sustainable corporate travel practices. TripIt, a travel-organizing app from SAP Concur, provides the needed data and enables frequent travelers to better understand their carbon footprint. Travelers get a holistic view of their air-travel footprint, as TripIt shows them the carbon emissions of their flights, tracks their annual flight emissions, and gives them ways to offset those environmental impacts – right alongside all their travel plans.
Jet-Set Offset, a startup that participated in the SAP.iO Foundry San Francisco accelerator program, is also concerned with the air-travel industry and people’s growing awareness of climate change and sustainability. The startup offers a carbon-based offsetting tool for both consumers and businesses to donate 1 cent per mile flown to environmental non-profit organizations.
To increase awareness and expand the understanding of why climate action is relevant for business, SAP furthermore offers a free massive open online course on “Business Success with Climate Action” on its openSAP platform.
On a Journey Towards Carbon Neutrality
While the company’s focus is on developing products and services that support customers in implementing sustainable business models and achieving their climate targets, SAP is also committed to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions. As a major step, SAP set a science-based target to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. Additionally, we are part of the We Mean Business coalition and the UN Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5C, among others.
Sustainable practices are therefore embedded in everything we do – from running our data centers to reporting our results to stakeholders. Back in 2009, SAP had set the goal of reducing its global greenhouse gas emissions to the year-2000 level by 2020. This target was met at the end of 2017 – despite growing more than fourfold in the interim. In conjunction with the publication of SAP’s Integrated Report 2020, SAP recently announced the goal to become carbon neutral in its own operations by 2023 – two years earlier than previously envisaged. In 2020, the company reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more than planned, mainly due to changes in the way its 100,000 employees across the world worked and traveled during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the decline in business flights and commuting to offices, SAP was able to overachieve by 43 % on its target for net carbon emissions in 2020, generating 135 kilotons (kt) instead of the anticipated 238 kt. By way of comparison: SAP’s emissions were 300 kt in 2019. By accelerating faster toward carbon-neutral operations, SAP anticipates the current development and underscores its role as a frontrunner in climate protection.
On our way to carbon neutrality, SAP is following a three-pillar approach: avoid, reduce, compensate. This means: Firstly, whenever possible, SAP aims to avoid the creation of greenhouse gases, for example by using virtual telecommunication instead of business flights. Secondly, if greenhouse gas emissions cannot be avoided, SAP aims to reduce these through innovations, among others in the areas of building efficiency, data center operations, carpooling and car sharing, or e-mobility. Thirdly, unavoidable emissions are compensated for in collaboration with partners that fulfill the gold standard or equally high-quality standards.
Next to a range of carbon-reducing measures, SAP also runs all its operations on 100% renewable energy and compensates for all other emissions within the material scope of its operations through investments such as those in the Livelihoods Carbon Funds.
SAP’s variety of efforts to combat climate change and to strengthen its transparent reporting were recognized by the non-profit organization CDP. SAP was included on CDP’s A List 2020, thereby receiving the top rating for leading in environmental transparency and action.
More on SAP's Contribution
- Sustainability management by SAP: Enabling tomorrow starts today
- SAP Climate 21 community page
- SAP joins World Business Council for Sustainable Development to innovate in global decarbonization effort
- Can we build our way out of climate destruction?
- Climate action on sap.com/purpose
- Climate change: It’s time to act!
- Our decade of delivery for climate
- Managing the ‘Green Line’ to address climate action
- Keynote by Thomas Saueressig: Ensuring agility and resilience in times of change with enterprise software
- The first step to managing a product’s carbon footprint
- SAP and Qualtrics collaborate with World Economic Forum on global study of public opinion on climate change and plastics
- What SAP is doing to address climate change
- Recent articles on Chasing Zero
- Decarbonization Depends on the Data