Moving the Needle for a World of Zero Waste

In 2019, SAP is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its sustainability journey. Much has been achieved, but at the same time, more work lies ahead.

Maggie Buggie, senior vice president and global head of Innovation Services and Solutions and member of the Sustainability Council at SAP, points out the need for action in a personal conversation: “There is no doubt that entire industries are changing at a speed unseen before. Just in my lifetime, population has doubled. We are expecting another billion approximately in the next 10 years – asking more from our planet.”

There is an estimated cost of $1.6 trillion in the U.S. alone for extreme weather and climate-related disasters and more plastic than fish expected in the ocean by 2050, causing $13 billion damages annually to marine ecosystems. Buggie is certain that the company has a crucial role to play in helping businesses through SAP solutions to address such challenges. This includes:

  • Enabling system collaboration on sustainable practices, as a broker and vehicle for a multi-industry view
  • Helping business to understand, control, manage, and take action on economic, social, and environmental impact
  • Focusing on the sustainable sourcing, design, and production of products and services

A World of Zero Waste

As a member of the Sustainability Council, Buggie is in a prime position at SAP to make that happen, including by extending the reach of programs such as the “Plastics Cloud” program across Board areas and executing on the company aspiration for a world with zero waste. And she is in good company.

“To bring the responsibility into the wider organization, we have managed to appoint senior executives in all SAP Board areas,” said Luka Mucic, chief financial officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, describing the company’s federated approach at the recent 10th anniversary sustainability dialogue event. “They understand that the focus on sustainability is not an add-on; it’s about the core essence of the business that they are driving and about performing in an optimal way.”

Buggie strongly believes that SAP’s sustainability commitment is the right thing to do in line with its vision and purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives – as much as it is also a real business imperative.

“I’m adamant that we have to step forward,” she says. “If not us, who else? Because of our deep understanding of business processes within companies and across industries, we have the ability through our products and through our expertise to drill into the processes that will actually drive change.”

She would love to see SAP accelerate the transition toward a zero-waste economy, especially considering only nine percent of the world economy is currently circular. The shift seems already underway, since customers are being held accountable for the potential negative impacts of their products long after they are sold. Recent studies show that the cost of disposal or extended product responsibility for consumer goods companies will be bigger than the cost of materials. First steps have been taken now through the launch of a new marketplace for suppliers of recycled plastics and plastic alternatives, and more will follow.

Buggie is excited at the prospect of SAP helping companies unlock the untapped $4.5 trillion of potential growth by optimizing circular business models. However, she also feels a moral urge to take the lead: “My own personal drive in this comes from how I am going to look at my two sons in the eyes in 10 years’ time. If they say to me ‘Mommy, what did you do?,’ my answer can’t be ‘nothing.’”