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A New CSR Area? – Who Needs It?

What?  Another new topic? 

At the end of 2007, a new area was launched under BPX called the Corporate Social Responsibility topic.  In the welcome page appears an invitation to the SAP community network in general but even more explicitly to Business Process experts to engage in “bringing corporate social responsibility and sustainability down to the individual organization and business process level”

Oh yeah? Is that some marketing speak? What does that mean and how to translate those lofty ambitions into something actionable, valuable and meaningful for business process expert community members and technologists here on SDN/BPX?  In other words why ever would the community want to begin discussing their respective organizations’ processes, commitments or activities in CSR, sustainability, accountability, and materiality with other members of the community?  And why would their organizations be supportive of such exposure and process share?

So who is going to care… or for that matter share?

Additional battle cries:  “Tell us what your own organizations are doing or should be doing to recognize and meet their global social responsibilities and contribute towards global sustainability”.  Hmm…further dilemmas..bit hard to be optimistic that these calls to action will get any immediate responses from either the business community or the techies.  Where would folks start?  How to measure?  How to tell us?  CSR BlogsCSR WikiSustainability & CSR?  What would be the context?  What would be the value? And exactly how risky would it be to share what our own organizations “should be doing” especially in light of the normal paranoia of getting one’s hand slapped or even worse receiving a dreaded pink slip (dismissal) for such provocations?  I mean, really?  Who loves whistle-blowers or tattle-tales, anyhow?

The Community rises to the occasion…or at least launches the discussion…

As it turns out, we can usually rely on our community members to provide context and coax value out of our discussion topics, no matter how challenging.  I was really pleased (and hardly surprised) to return from vacation and find that one of the first to meet the clarion call was my SDN/ASUG friend and an SAP mentor, Jim Spath in his blog: “CSR and Me” .  As Dennis Howlett of the Enterprise Irregulars was  2008 – the year when CSR becomes reality? out  after reading Jim’s first CSR blog installment on this topic:

“The truly innovative geeks are the ones who understand the value of other human beings. They are an important and influential minority.” 

Frankly, I was hardly as shocked as Dennis that our technical community would be the one to step forward first.  Hand’s down, it seems to be the community that is quickest to embrace openness and collaboration here.

So no, I had few doubts that my friend Jim, who is the community facilitator for ASUG’s Business Integration, Technology and Infrastructure (BITI) Community would be a man, maybe even the man to rise to the occasion.  Although I was absent from the scene, I think I secretly baited him to, though the incentive of writing a blog for the “topic of the month” was a big impetus to post, in his own words.   🙂

From Individual to Community to Organization

Now Jim has gone and written a second piece (and no points for topic of the month for that one) and here I am really, really pleased.  There is a lovely pattern emerging.   Jim started his first blog as a testament to what an individual can do:  “CSR and Me” and he continues his second blog speaking about not only his individual energy consumption levels at home but goes on to provide an invitation to the community to check on their own personal “Carbon Footprint at Home” , and lastly and very importantlyl,  he provides some transparency and a peek into what his organization energy usage looks like here.

See the pattern?  Start with the individual, take it out to the community and loop back to the organization.  Next steps: analyze, design, model, compare, discuss, critique, revisit.  Hmmmm….sounds like a Business Process Improvement Lifecycle to me.

So just why should you do that, publicly you might ask?

I found a possible answer to this question through reading Ireland’s “top subscribed-to blogger”: Tom Raftery (and having the privilege of chatting with him real-time, as I’m fast becoming an admirer of his social media skills, business acumen and technology savvy) and the answer is available to you too, by listening to him give a really informative video cast out there about how he and his colleagues were able to achieve “80% energy efficiency due to the innovative technologies” in their Cork Internet eXchange(CIX),  Cork city’s first professional quality, debt-free data centre”. According to Raftery, typical data centres operate at 30% energy efficiency while, “CIX is rated to operate at 80% energy efficiency due to the innovative technologies we outlined in this interview”.    And what’s really really catching my attention is that it appears that Tom credits the transparency of their operations, the opportunities for collaboration and discussion with some of their impressive efficiency success.

“We don’t believe in security by obscurity”, says he. And by showing off what they’ve done, Tom and his CIX colleagues prove that by being transparent, giving good visibility to others, providing opportunities for discussion, they can improve their own processes.  It sounds like Tom and co. weren’t just touting success; they were making improvements in an iterative, collaborative and open process.

Where to begin?  It’s begun….

Thanks to links provided by Jim we can take a look at what his organization is doing in the realm of CSR (and by reading the report on the website, note the strong theme of interdependence on ecosystems that go beyond the corporate walls).

But why hasn’t it begun in the Business Community?

Unlike Dennis, I don’t wonder why the SDNers have showed up for this topic, but my real concern (surprise surprise) is thinking how to engage the Business Process Experts in these important topics and wondering how best to advocate the importance of collaborative conversation around the new CSR topic here to the business professionals.

Who, for example, is up to the challenge of engaging with a new member Andrew Davison who asks in the deserted General Enterprise Sustainability Solutions: “What aspects of MRP, ERP, ATP specifically using the ECC 6 SAP platform, assist in sustainability and corporate social responsibility?”   What can we share from a community perspective that would get these conversations jump-started and relate them back to ourselves, our community, our organizations and yes, even our software solutions? 

There’s a whole opportunity out there around reporting standards, process improvement, KPIs, efficiency, accountability, compliance (hello, revenue saving activities? ).  Are these only of interest to hackers here?    If so, we are in trouble.

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  • Wow!

    Thanks a million Marilyn for the kind words and the links.

    One other advantage of the aspect of the extreme energies and low carbon footprint we have achieved in our data centre is that it greatly reduces the operating costs (especially when you consider that energy costs are only tending upwards).

    Thankfully CSR is finally becoming more important in the enterprise, no doubt about it but when you can combine that with reducing running costs it is a real no-brainer.

    • that does sound like a real no-brainer and should be of great interest to the business community.  The question remains, will they come here as a source for case studies, virtual roundtable discussions, iterative and cross-organizational process improvement activities and KPI building collaborations (or will they stay sequestered behind their own firewalls, each to figure it out for him or herself?)