Taking Action: What SAP Is Doing to Address Climate Change

Climate change is a hot topic. The responsibility to act and collaborate to address it must be shared globally. SAP has been serious about climate change for more than 10 years, setting its first carbon reduction targets in 2009. While the company was again rated as the No. 1 software company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices this year, more work still lies ahead.

With the #FridaysForFuture movement, thousands of students are taking to the streets each Friday to demonstrate for climate protection. The annual Emissions Gap Report just published sent another signal of urgency ahead of this week’s climate conference. Assessing where greenhouse gas emissions are heading compared to where they need to be, the report points out that emissions need to fall by 7.6 percent each year over the next decade if the world is to get back on track toward the goal of limiting temperature rise to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Warming above 1.5 degrees would lead to more frequent, more intense climate impacts – such as the heatwaves and storms witnessed in recent years – and pose serious threats to people, countries, and environment, as well as to business.

Enabling Climate Action Through SAP Solutions

To combat the damage caused by climate change, SAP is using digitalization to help customers to reduce carbon outputs and contribute to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 13, Climate Action.

“SAP’s key lever is our product portfolio, with which we enable customers to create positive economic, environmental, and social impacts,” says SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Daniel Schmid. “If we look at our broad reach, with more than 437,000 customers, the potential for us to make a difference could be enormous.”

Working with customers, some of this potential has already been realized.

At the strategic sustainability dialogue held at SAP headquarters in September, Kaiserwetter Founder and CEO Hanno Schoklitsch spoke about how his company is using the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive the transition to green power. He presented the latest update of ARISTOTELES, an IoT platform enabled by SAP Cloud Platform and using smart data analytics and predictive data simulation to improve energy efficiency investments and financing.

Amplifying such impact is essential. SAP teams are therefore working to scale SAP solutions that help cities to drive the transformation of mobility and support supply chain networks to become more transparent, to move toward a circular, zero-waste economy, and address plastic pollution.

Leading by Example: Internal Efforts

Infographic on SAP's plan to become carbon neutral
Click to enlarge

While the company’s focus is on developing products and services that support customers in implementing sustainable business models, SAP is also committed to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions. Measures are already in place to achieve this goal.

SAP wants to generate 85 percent less CO2 along the entire value chain by 2050, which is part of the Science Based Targets initiative, recently stepped up its commitment by adopting the 1.5° C science-based emissions reduction targets aligned with a net-zero future. To become carbon neutral in its own operations by 2025, SAP is following a three-pillar approach: avoid, reduce, compensate.

  • Avoid: Whenever possible, SAP aims to avoid the creation of greenhouse gases. This is a top priority, for example, using virtual telecommunication instead of business flights.
  • Reduce: If greenhouse gas emissions cannot be avoided, SAP aims to drive efficiency and reduce all types of emissions, for example, building efficiency, data center operations, carpooling and car sharing, e-mobility.
  • Compensate: SAP has extended its compensation models for travel. For business flights, an internal carbon price to offset related carbon emissions was introduced, and SAP issued carbon-neutral fuel cards for all company cars.

In 2009, SAP set the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions back to the levels of 2000 by the year 2020. This was achieved ahead of schedule at the end of 2017 despite the number of SAP employees growing fourfold. Last year, SAP reduced its emissions to 310 kilotons, outperforming the annual target for reducing its annual emissions to less than 333 of CO2 by 23 kilotons. The exact figures can be found in the annual Integrated Report. Furthermore, an internal sustainability dashboard allows employees to explore the breakdown by their country, location, and line of business.

All SAP data centers and facilities have been running on green energy since 2014. In addition, SAP is gradually introducing an environmental management system reflecting the ISO 14001 standard at SAP sites worldwide.  In 2019, 55 SAP locations have already achieved the ISO 14001 certification.  An ISO 50001-certified energy management system is integrated with existing management systems at selected sites, such as SAP headquarters in Walldorf and St. Leon-Rot, to continuously improve the company’s energy performance.

Mobility also plays a key role in combatting climate change, so the commuting behavior of employees is included in the calculation of SAP’s CO2 emissions. From a wide variety of electric company cars, special public transportation schemes, bicycles, and carpooling, SAP offers a variety of ways to commute and travel sustainably. The results of the 2018 employee commuting survey showed a positive trend: In 2018, daily carbon emissions from commuting declined by 4.7 percent compared to the year before. Car use declined by five percent, public transportation use held steady, and bicycle usage increased by 15 percent. Working from a home office grew by 11 percent compared to the previous year.

When emissions cannot be avoided or reduced, SAP compensates by investing in CO2 offsets and in return receives CO2 credits from the sponsored projects. The focus is on high-quality projects such as the Livelihoods Fund, which combine reforestation with the improvement of the livelihood of rural communities and fulfills the GOLD standard of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF). To date, 2.3 million trees have been planted, thereof 1 million trees in 2018 to 2019 — for example, in the Project Kikonda Forest Reserve in Uganda.

Taking Action on an Individual Level

There are many ways for individuals s to make a difference, both in private life and at work. SAP employees are eager to make a positive contribution. According to the annual people survey, 93 percent confirm they think it is important for SAP to pursue sustainability. More than 200 engage as sustainability champions in a global network to drive change and inspire colleagues.

The SAP Next-Gen program has worked with UN Technology Innovation Labs to support a climate action hackathon series, Reboot the Earth, with the finals held during the September Climate Summit in New York. Many SAP employees across different locations volunteered as judges in the local contests.

The sustainable programming guidelines that the Performance and Scalability team at SAP put together serve as another example. Detlef Thom, SAP product expert in Development, notes: “For software developers and architects, being sustainable and contributing to Green IT means designing software programs that make efficient use of computing resources and save power. This becomes even more imperative if we take into account the huge number of all business transactions worldwide that are handled by an SAP system.”