SAP Launches Sustainability Management App

Software giant's new sustainability management application simplifies data collection and analysis to help companies meet environmental and social standards.
Posted December 10, 2009

Larry Barrett

SAP on Thursday unveiled what it believes is the software industry's most comprehensive and useful green application to date with the launch of SAP BusinessObjects Sustainability Management.

The application, which was developed with the help of some of SAP's (NYSE: SAP) largest and most environmentally conscience customers including Lexmark and Nestle, will give enterprise customers the ability to cull through hundreds of business applications and extract the pertinent sustainability data and consolidate it in one dashboard to manage an organization's overall sustainability program.

Sustainability, which obviously includes environmental responsibility but also incorporates social and economic considerations, is not just something corporations do for good public relations these days -- it's a business imperative.

In October, Walmart (NYSE: WMT), which recorded more than $406 billion in sales last year, threw down the gauntlet to its 100,000-plus suppliers worldwide with the creation of the Walmart Sustainability Index.

The index is designed to provide Walmart and its customers with a single source of data for evaluating the sustainability of the products it sells and, not unintentionally, raises the bar for manufacturers looking to do business with the world's largest retailer.

Along those lines, more and more multinational corporations are voluntarily participating in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a network-based organization that's established the framework for benchmarking organizational performance with respect to sustainable development and commerce.

To meet the demands of the Walmarts of the world -- to say nothing of current and future environmental legislation by local, national and international governments -- companies are faced with the daunting challenge of gathering all their data, like carbon emissions, water consumption, electricity used in the datacenter, and so on. And they have to make sense of it without spending millions in what's still somewhat of an altruistic endeavor.

SAP, which prides itself as the leader among software vendors on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for three years running, said its new sustainability management application will deliver that data quickly from all the disparate production, sales, manufacturing, HR and health and safety applications running in the enterprise.

"We are so proud of this product," Peter Graf, SAP's chief sustainability officer, said during a conference call Thursday. "It gives companies the ability to truly drive their sustainability and live up to the promises made to their customers, their employees and their management."

The software provides a holistic view of an organization's sustainability indicators and features an easy-to-use interface that streamlines internal and external reporting. SAP officials said it then helps turn data into actionable insight that can be cascaded and executed on throughout an organization, making it easier to track compliance with sustainability strategies across the business.

It includes a library of more than 100 key performance indicators that were jointly developed with Nestle and Lexmark to identify the most important environmental, social and business metrics required to deliver a comprehensive view of an organization's overall sustainability.

Using the business intelligence and analytics features developed by BusinessObjects, the application analyzes these KPIs and provides them in a single snapshot view, so C-level executives can quickly ascertain just how well or how poorly a particular region or business unit is doing in its sustainability efforts.

SAP officials said the application is designed to support SAP and non-SAP business applications and can be used to manually input some data in an organized and structured fashion that keeps all the data fresh and pooled in the appropriate data fields.

"In conversations with our customers, they've told us that [sustainability management] isn't really a voluntary activity," Graf said. "It's a mainstream task and managing it through phone calls and Excel spreadsheets is to expensive."

"The public and governments are putting pressure on them to be accountable," he added. "You have to make sure the information you have is easily retrievable and audited."

As the Walmart Sustainability Index was announced, the retailer made it clear that there was an undeniably competitive element to the program -- it was designed to "create a race to the top," according to a statement at the time from Matt Kistler, Walmart's senior vice president of sustainability.

Along with helping it facilitate the selection of "preferred products," Walmart said it also expects the index to help it track its enormous supply chain, drive product innovation and variety and hold its buyers and suppliers accountable for their impact on the environment and their local communities.

"Sustainability is increasingly mission-critical across the corporate world," said Stephen Stokes, AMR Research's vice president of sustainability and green technologies. "Managing and reporting an organization's sustainable performance via transparent and high quality data collation, analysis, optimization and modeling is a new basis for defining and communicating operational excellence."

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Tags: SAP, business intelligence, network, Enterprise, optimization

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