If you’ve ever started your car only to find it sputtering, “it’s time for a new battery” is likely one of the first thoughts that crossed your mind. While you focus your attention on replacing the battery at a mechanic or an auto parts store, it’s easy to overlook an important detail that dominates conversations on sustainability today: what happens to the dead battery?

This question, which can be applied to a wide range of products, including plastics and metals, that are used to power and connect society, is at the heart of the circular economy, a term to describe the concept of making growth and the recycling of finite resources interlocked.

For Ecobat, the world’s leader in battery recycling and lead production, the circular economy is inseparable from its business, which focuses on the recovery and repurposing of more than 99% of the metal in many of the batteries companies and consumers use on a daily basis. Given the gravity of this initiative and the complex coordination required by the circular economy, Ecobat’s leaders know technology must be a part of this equation and have doubled down on investments in this area to achieve its mission of leading in the responsible collection, recycling, production, and distribution of resources essential to modern life.

Ecobat CIO Jamie Lee has spearheaded these efforts. A recent example is that Ecobat signed a deal with SAP to engage the new RISE with SAP offering to facilitate its move to SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

We sat down virtually with Lee to learn how the world’s leading battery recycler is helping drive the circular economy and where cloud adoption will help the company move its sustainability-focused mission forward.

A Driving Force in Sustainability

According to Lee, Ecobat takes a full-circle approach to recycling and repurposing materials that people use in their daily lives — from lead and other alloys to lithium and the plastics from which batteries are crafted. The company prides itself on meaningful manufacturing partnerships to get this done because it has a much bigger global purpose: transforming resources to power a more connected, sustainable world.

It’s the company’s approach to innovation that has positioned Ecobat as a leader in circular economy conversations.

“We either recycle, manufacture, or refurbish products and core materials that come from those batteries. Keeping them out of landfills is key because there are so many batteries in the world today,” Lee said. Using an example of battery manufacturers wanting to use lead, lithium, and plastics, Lee shared how that’s when consumers see the fruit of these efforts: from our devices, phones, and data centers to electric vehicles, stored, and mobile energy backup systems.

“We believe we serve as a very important part of sustainability in this world,” Lee said. The numbers bear this out as well. Ecobat and other companies have noticed the immense importance and economic weight consumers are putting on sustainability in products.

SAP S/4HANA Is Helping Ecobat Grow

With the company priding itself on its circular economy leadership, Lee shared that SAP S/4HANA Cloud will be an essential tool for its unique business to scale globally. As a manufacturing industry veteran, Lee has seen the negative outcomes that have occurred when peers did not proactively invest talent and resources into a technology strategy. In a world full of constant change, Lee points to these learnings and his extensive experience with the SAP ecosystem as the crucial factors behind Ecobat’s strategic investment in technology.

With the help of SAP, Ecobat plans to connect its supply chain and customers so that the nature of what they recycle as a product aligns with a digital flow of data and information. “For us, SAP is less of ERP and more of an enterprise business platform. Leveraging SAP is where we will succeed,” he said.

RISE with SAP Comes at the Perfect Time

As someone who has worked with SAP for decades, Lee was ecstatic when RISE with SAP was announced, calling it the very definition of customer empathy, especially for organizations — like those in manufacturing — that may not have been able to make years-long investments in technology. “It says: ‘Look, we understand you may not be able to take a generalized approach to the cloud, so we are going to invest in the right, customized approach adapted to your company to help get you there,’” Lee said.

That help comes in the form of a support team, not just one salesperson leading the charge. “I’ve got a team,” Lee said. “I know the team members behind [the scenes]. They’re all active.” Indeed while the team structure is helping Ecobat put its plans into action, Lee was especially appreciative of having a single point of contact on the licensing side. “My hat is off to Christian Klein and SAP for the new licensing structure and the customer-centric branding behind RISE with SAP.”

Looking forward, Lee is eager to incorporate SAP Analytics Cloud to help the company forecast and predict important supply chain trends and continue adapting the business to an ever-changing global economy. In the meantime, RISE with SAP will enable Ecobat to develop innovative and sustainable products that meet the ever-growing need for more efficient, reliable energy storage solutions.

The SAP S/4HANA Success series features content by leaders from SAP North America focused on highlighting customer success with SAP S/4HANA. Learn how customers in this region manage successful implementations with the partner ecosystem and SAP Services as well as leverage the platform to transform their industries.

John Tully is senior vice president and managing director of the South Region for SAP North America.