Creating vibrant ecosystems is the best way for leaders to help their organizations achieve their sustainability goals. Take SAP, for example, which recently announced plans to accelerate efforts to achieve net-zero emissions across its entire value chain by 2030, rather than 2050, 20 years earlier than originally planned.
Julia White, SAP’s Director of Marketing and Solutions, told me in detail this week about the organization’s value proposition for making sustainability management the centerpiece of its new product suite. “SAP wants to make sustainability profitable and profitability sustainable,” said White, who believes that due to the transformative potential of this value proposition, sustainability is the new frontier of digital transformation.
A feeling shared by Professor Vijay Pereira of NEOMA Business School. Taking open innovation as an example, Pereira says it has proven useful for companies reporting several positive results including improved business performance, quality of innovation performance, range of products and market share. Furthermore, Pereira is of the view that open innovation is also hailed as a way to save cost and time during a crisis, like the ongoing pandemic.
White agrees, suggesting that business leaders need tools that allow them to quantify, analyze, and act on real-time data throughout their end-to-end operations to establish a “green line” of sustainability. Therefore, the best way to achieve sustainable profits and business operations is to embed holistic sustainability management throughout the business.
In doing so, White explains, SAP customers are integrating technology and big data into their operations to be more sustainable while generating net worth. This is achieved by integrating sustainability data into their core business processes, so they gain the visibility needed to manage key sustainability areas such as carbon accounting and workforce diversity. “Our goal is to help our customers realize the benefits of digital transformation to solve their biggest challenges,” comments White. She adds, “It’s about using the cloud, streamlining data structures and integrating processes across the organization to better manage supply chains and help address issues like climate change. .”
Interestingly, SAP also brings its customers into collaborations with a global ecosystem of partners and partnerships that help extend the impact to businesses of all sizes and in all industries. For example, the organization develops and uses industrial cloud data sharing platforms, like Catena-X for the automotive sector, and tackles Scope 3 emissions accounting through coalitions like the initiative WBCSD Pathfinder. Through close ecosystem partnerships, SAP is leading the way in sustainability innovation that no other individual competitor can match. Additionally, SAP’s partner ecosystem extends market reach and helps customers around the world accelerate and improve the impact of their sustainability journeys.
Considering how this announcement impacts the industry, White sees SAP as a pioneer for enterprise applications of sustainability management technologies. They enable companies to embed sustainability across their entire business for holistic sustainability management. White concludes that no other technology provider can match the portfolio of sustainability management tools. This sentiment is shared by Pereira, who suggests that SAP solutions can be widely adopted for holistic management or selectively implemented based on priority themes such as emissions management, waste and materials management or liability. social in value chains. “Cloud for Sustainable Business builds on our experience of providing our customers with proven solutions that deliver real value. Consider that companies using SAP technologies have 73% higher ESG scores and 27% lower CO2 emissions than those not using SAP. »
Looking ahead, White believes the scale of the challenges we face today means the economic status quo is not sustainable. “Fragmentary and disconnected approaches will not offer the competitive growth opportunities of implementing holistic and integrated sustainability management,” she adds. “Companies of all sizes around the world are the most effective drivers of sustainable development. Accordingly, all of us in the private sector must recognize the urgency of the task ahead and become sustainable businesses.
Therefore, the essential message is that sustainability and long-term value creation go hand in hand. In other words, treating sustainability as an additional cost to the business is incorrect – it’s a competitive advantage. To be profitable in the long term, companies must embrace sustainability. Companies that focus on sustainability performance will more easily comply with growing regulations, gain competitive efficiencies, and ultimately embrace and thrive through new business opportunities as economies transition.
Becoming truly sustainable requires more than efficiencies and fine-tuning the boundaries of business models. It takes end-to-end holistic approaches that bring together all facets of a business focused on creating long-term value – for the business and for society.