SAP reduced its global carbon footprint by 15 percent last year, saving the company around €90 million.

This comes as the company announced a 12 percent increase in revenues.

The reduction, from 501 kilotons of carbon in 2008 to 425 kilotons in 2009, was well ahead of the company’s annual goal of five percent less than the previous year’s emissions. SAP attributed the achievement to internal measures such as reducing the number of business flights, and the impact of the economic crisis on the business.

SAP’s long-term goal is to reduce its total carbon emissions to the level of 2000 by the year 2020.

This is no easy task, as Dr Peter Graf, chief sustainability officer at SAP, explained: “Our carbon footprint is mainly driven by the number of people in the company. In 2000, we had 24,000 employees. In 2007, we had 50,000 employees. Now, we are at about 48,000.

“We need to reduce the carbon footprint for each employee by more than 60 percent.”

Initiatives that drove SAP’s carbon emissions reduction last year include the cutting of business flights by 32 percent. The company encouraged employees to avoid travel where possible, and invested in new high-resolution teleconferencing solutions to encourage virtual meetings and conferences.

It also increased data centre efficiency by measures such as investing in virtualisation technology to lower energy consumption, and using thin provisioning and de-duplication technologies to reduce the space needed for data storage.

However, SAP did admit that it did not reach its targets in all areas of the business. For example, it failed to reduce fuel consumption of its corporate car fleet by 2.5 percent as a number of employees hired in 2006 became eligible for a company car, therefore growing the size of the fleet.

SAP encourages its employees to implement sustainable practices in their work lives through an education programme called ‘100,000 steps to sustainability”. For instance, in order to meet this year’s targets, SAP is implementing a number of initiatives, such as incentivising people to travel by rail instead of using cars, investing in videoconferencing equipment to reduce the need for business travel, and developing a carpool system.

“Half of the electricity we buy in our global business is renewable, mainly water or wind,” added Graf.

According to Graf, sustainability is a trend that is “really powered by IT”, especially as SAP provides software that supports all different enterprise areas, from supply chains and logistics to distribution and HR.

“Software is key because software can measure, optimise and improve how business is run.

“IT creates transparency. With software, you can find the areas where you can have the biggest impact [on the carbon footprint].”

As well as having annual targets, SAP collects and reports all its carbon information on a quarterly basis. It does this using an SAP application called Carbon Impact, and publishes its results on a dedicated website, www.sapsustainabilityreport.com, which presents the data using a range of multimedia, including images and graphs.

Graf said that the latest report was read by 30 percent more people than last year’s report, after SAP integrated a social networking function on the website to facilitate discussion about the report, via Facebook and Twitter.

SAP Carbon Impact is also available as a web-based product for customers, and so far 1,800 (including Hitachi and Lockheed Martin) of SAP’s total 100,000 customers are using the product. Customers can also access the analytics functions of the software on mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads.

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