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Energy and Emissions

  • We continued to procure 100% renewable electricity in 2015.
  • Carbon emission offsets were introduced for business flights.
  • We continued to drive the expansion of the environmental management system (ISO 14001).

In 2015, we made significant progress toward our goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, taking advantage of the digitalization and green technology trends that are driving transformational changes across the global economy. These trends can have a significant impact on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We are applying these trends to our own business and helping our customers apply them to their businesses. For example, by enabling business model transformation, using advances such as smart grids and the Internet of Things, SAP is helping connected digital business networks reduce overall carbon footprints.

Strengthening our “Green Cloud”

We see that energy consumption in data centers is closely related to innovation and customer adoption of our solutions. As we accelerate our shift to the cloud, we have tied our business strategy to our environmental strategy by creating a completely “green cloud” at SAP, referring to carbon neutrality, by purchasing 100% renewable electricity certificates and compensation by CO2 offsets. In assessing our environmental impact, we focus on energy usage throughout SAP, as well as greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

Our goal is to reduce the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our operations to levels of the year 2000 by 2020. This target includes all direct and indirect emissions from running our business (GHG Protocol Scopes 1 and 2), as well as a selected subset of other indirect (Scope 3) emissions. We do not include all of our Scope 3 emissions in our target because we choose to focus on those emissions over which we have direct control or ability to influence. However, we are increasingly addressing both our upstream and downstream emissions to support a comprehensive carbon strategy for SAP.

Specifically, we are working to reduce our emissions through three primary approaches: increasing our operational efficiency combined with innovative approaches to the way we do things; purchasing high-quality renewable electricity certificates; and investing in high-quality carbon credits.

In addition to our long-term commitment for 2020, we have derived annual targets for our internal operational steering. Despite integrating new acquisitions in 2015, our total net emissions decreased to 455 kilotons CO2 (2014: 500 kilotons). This decrease stems primarily from a reduction of business flights and compensation with carbon emission offsets. We are effectively compensating the emissions from those customer systems that have moved into our green cloud. Given the large size of our customers’ CO2 footprints and our growth strategy in the cloud, we see significant potential to reduce both our own and our customers’ environmental impact.

Since the beginning of 2008, our focus on carbon emissions has generated a cumulative cost avoidance of €346 million, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This leads to an avoidance of €124 million in the past three years, with €39.8 million avoided in 2015 alone.

Investing in Environmental Innovations

We are pursuing new strategies to contend with the ongoing tension between growth in our business and our goal to reduce our emissions. One such approach is the introduction of carbon emission offsets for business flights in 2015. In addition to avoiding and reducing overall business flights, we began, in the second half of 2015, to offset selected business flights in the United States, as this is the country with the greatest number of business flights. This offset effort resulted in a compensation of 35 kilotons of CO2.

SAP continues to invest in technology that enables virtual collaboration, supporting our efforts to reduce the need for employees to travel. In addition to our TelePresence and video conferencing platforms, new collaboration rooms based on the Skype for Business communications platform bring new features that enable teamwork across borders and time zones. More than 100 collaboration rooms have been installed throughout SAP with more planned for 2016. Because more employees adopt video chat as their preferred method of communication, more than 1,200 meeting spaces have been equipped with 360-degree cameras – giving remote participants a more interactive experience. Skype for Business also enables each employee to video chat from their computer.

To further decrease car-related emissions, we plan to increase the portion of electric vehicles (or alternatives) in our company car fleet from the current 1% to 20% by 2020. At the end of 2015, we have 57 charging stations and 55 pure electric vehicles in our company car fleet at our headquarters in Walldorf, and approximately 300 e-cars globally. Our company car initiatives address a dilemma that has grown in recent years. As a result of our business expansion, the number of SAP employees eligible for a company car has increased annually. We want to ensure that we do not undo our efficiency gains with our growing car fleet.

In keeping with our existing policy for office buildings and data centers, all our electric company cars charged at SAP are powered with 100% renewable sources. In Germany, for example, we provide employees with an incentive to switch to electric alternatives by offering a battery subsidy that offsets the costs of using an electric vehicle. We believe that our electric car initiative will play a critical role in helping achieve our 2020 carbon reduction goal.

In 2015, emissions caused by SAP products in use at the sites of more than 300,000 customers were almost 15 times larger than SAP’s own footprint, meaning these products caused approximately 6,800 kilotons of CO2. By using 100% renewable electricity, we dramatically broaden our sustainability efforts and align them with our cloud strategy, reducing the carbon emissions of our cloud solutions to zero.

We continued to realize the benefits of our investment in the Livelihoods Fund, a unique investment fund whose returns consist of high-quality carbon credits. Several years ago, we made a commitment to investing €3 million covering a 20-year participation in the fund, which supports the sustainability of agricultural and rural communities worldwide. Projects of this fund focus on ecosystem restoration, agriculture, agroforestry, and rural energy. In eastern India, for example, the fund helped communities plant fruit trees to diversify food sources and address the overcultivation of soil. Instead of a charitable donation, we have made a long-term investment that brings benefits to society, the environment, and SAP. In 2015, we received carbon credits from the fund, which helped us to offset our carbon footprint by 23 kilotons.

Another important program in 2015 was the further implementation of ISO 14001 in SAP locations throughout the world. This well-accepted environmental management system is now in place at 32 of our locations worldwide, including our North America headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, as well as in Palo Alto, San Francisco, Sunnyvale, and Dublin, California, both in the United States; and other countries including Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and South Africa. New sites in Singapore and Switzerland, as well as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Brazil, were certified in 2015. To act more quickly and achieve consistency, we created a template to roll out in other sites, enabling us to efficiently build a large global network where different sites interact and share best practices. Our goal is to continually increase the number of certified locations; we aim for total full-time equivalent (FTE) coverage of 70% by 2018. By end of 2015, SAP had an environmental management system (ISO 14001) in place in 15 countries and 32 single sites. This represents a total FTE coverage of 22.2%.

Measuring Our Total Energy Consumed

Because our energy usage drives emissions, one of the most important measures for us is total energy consumed. This includes all energy that SAP generates or purchases to run our facilities, data centers, company cars, and corporate jets. Our total energy consumption increased to 965 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2015, compared to 920 GWh in 2014.

This increase is due to growth in our workforce and business. In addition, as software usage shifts to the cloud, we are operating more of our customers’ systems in our data centers, as well as other locations where we supplement our servers. This additional cloud operation, along with accompanying servers and facilities, consumes more energy. At the same time, we believe this shift has the opposite effect for our customers that are now able to simplify their technology and save energy through our shared infrastructure. This reduces overall IT-related energy consumption through our highly energy-efficient cloud provisioning.

Optimizing Efficiency in Our Data Centers

Data centers are at the heart of how SAP provides solutions to our customers and represents a significant part of our total greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, with our energy consumption rising as more of our business moves to the cloud, data centers have become a primary focus of our carbon reduction efforts and the adoption of our technology innovations and solutions towards our customers. We continue to drive efficiency and innovation around buildings, data center operations, and infrastructure. For example, in one of our largest data centers in St. Leon-Rot, Germany, we received an energy efficiency certificate from TÜV Rheinland, a leading provider of technical, safety, and certification services, with an efficiency score of 98.7%. One hundred percent of our energy usage that provides internal and external computation power comes from renewable sources. Our total data center electricity consumption at both our internal and external sites increased from 179 in 2014 to 249 GWh in 2015. In recognition of the exemplary actions SAP has taken to improve our data centers, we were awarded the European Datacentre Sustainability Award in 2015.

Reinforcing Our Renewable Electricity Strategy

Our commitment to 100% renewable electricity in all of our internal and external data centers and facilities is one of the most significant steps toward making our operations more sustainable. In 2015, we mainly focused on wind and, to a lesser extent, on biomass. While we produce a small amount of renewable electricity through solar panels in some locations, we rely primarily on the purchase of renewable electricity certificates (RECs) to increase the renewable electricity in our energy mix. We procure RECs regionally that add value and drive change in the electricity market, adopting high-quality standards in our procurement guidelines that are aligned with two non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For example, we consider renewable electricity from biomass only if it is disconnected from coal or other fossil power plants and if the biomass itself is not related to deforestation. In addition, we require that power plants must be no more than 10 years old, as we aim to foster new innovation in the production of renewable electricity. Furthermore, SAP is not considering RECs from power plants that are currently supported by governments. As a vintage requirement, we define that renewable electricity must be produced in the same year or the year before the reporting period will be applied.

In 2015, SAP joined the green initiative RE100 and is now one of the global corporations that have signed on to the RE100 initiative. RE100 is led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) and the goal of the campaign is to have 100 of the world’s most influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity.

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