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From The Grumpy Old Man: Is it worth keeping the SAPPHIRE burning?

I’m currently at SAPPHIRE – a SAP conference  ‘where senior executives, business managers, and decision-makers can come together to explore how innovative business solutions foster long-term, profitable growth’ –  covering things as a blogger. I arrived Sunday and the weather was clear so I could look outside the window in the plane. No, I’m not one of those mass tourists who clap in their hands when the plane lands safely, which it did btw. No, I was looking outside for a special reason: you see immediately when you fly over Germany. You see wind turbines everywhere. That in big contrast with Belgium, where – as you’ve might have read in an earlier blog – it’s unfeasible to set up (your own) wind turbines. Instead, one wants us to put solar panels on our roof . That in a country where good weather – if you want to call those sticky temperatures good weather anyway – only last for maximum a week in a row and the efficiency of those panels are doubtful. Wind is an all season given – yes, variable – thing, but the ‘not in my backyard’- mentality thinks different about it. In fairness, I need to say that things are changing and things could be easier in the future.
Why didn’t I go via e.g. train? Good question. If it wasn’t such a challenging, lengthy and expensive experience, I certainly would. Arrived at the Berlin airport, it struck me how well the public transport in Berlin is organised. Strange to see most of the passengers seems to prefer an expensive cab drive instead of the very cheap bus drive to the hotel and/or venue. The three day public transport ticket is sponsored and thus for free. This is a great initiative, so why don’t they make all use of it? You can’t get anything more reliable and you can’t get ‘lost’ if you sometimes end up with a  malicious driver when they discover your not a native customer. Everything is well indicated in the bus and you arrive well in time. This is something where the Belgian public transport companies can learn from.

Having said this, I’m here to cover this event. I wouldn’t be a Grumpy if I did look at the ‘normal’ side of things and some of you reading this surely don’t like that and I’ll be probably cut my own throat with this writing. I somewhat want to provoke and doubt the usefulness of these kind of events in times where (energy) resources are getting scarce and (very) expensive. Let’s face it. There are about 9000 people attending this event. They all need to be transported over here and I’m rather sure that not majority is going the most environmental friendly way to this event. Are all these people compensating the CO2 they ‘produced’ by travelling in such way? I hope so.

The event itself takes also a lot of resources if you see all the flashy stuff going on. Sure we like to be entertained and the selling message – it all comes to this after all – needs to be brought as good as possible. We can’t sit in the dark either; I understand it very well. I didn’t see any indication on how things are powered though. Is there any green energy involved? I don’t know yet, since I didn’t have the chance to look around thorough. One isn’t exposing things very publicly though, which is a pity.

But also look at non energy related issues. How many waste is generated by this event. If you see all the bottles -despite having deposit money – ending up not sorted in the bin with te rest of the garbage. Why doesn’t one give everybody reusable bottles and let the people even fill them with taping water instead of the stuff in a bottle with some advertisement on it from an SAP partner? Berlin water is perfectly potable and very tasty. I know what I was talking about, since I drank it yesterday evening before going to bed. It is not only a principal thing but paying 5 6 Euro for a bit of water from the bar in the room is not I want to pay and it is a disgrace that hotels are doing this.

Why are all these people attending such an event and spending a lot of time and money on it? Sure, it’s nice to see all those people IRL once a while. I’m the last person to deny this. Otherwise it would be a dull planet indeed. Others want to exchange ideas/experiences or just getting things off one’s chest. Not all SAP things runs a smooth as the like to let you believe in keynotesJ Some others want to see what’s available on the market and even want to make some smart of a commercial contact. But commercially wise, nothing will be signed. Contracts don’t get negotiated over here. It’s nothing like a the Brussels car and motorcycle show which is a typical buyers fair. The latter is a strange phenomenon. People are willing to spend hours in traffic jams for an overcrowded event whereas you get the same (or even better) conditions in your local car dealer around the corner.

Maybe the same counts for SAPPHIRE. Shouldn’t all be done locally instead of having those mass events? There are already such kind of events in Belgium, so why still attend SAPPHIRE?

Sure there are already ‘regional’ versions: one for the EU and one for the US. And some might say that putting as much people as possible is much more (energy) efficient and should be compared as a kind of public transport. Is that a fact? I didn’t see any figures about that proving this supposition. I they show up, I’m the first to admit my mistake. Is this formula not getting out dated and doesn’t one need to reconsider things?

I’m not the only concerned about this matter. James Governor (Greenmonk) has already blogged interesting things about this matter, like e.g. McAfee goes Green in Vegas!

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  • Hi Eddy,

    I appreciate and agree with most of your points,but surely if the hotel is charging so much for bottled water when tap water is free, then they are effectively adding a “green tax” to the bottled water? Is this not a good thing, to dissuade people economically from choosing a non-green alternative, while still giving them that choice?

    Best regards,
    (attending Sapphire virtually, and very greenly)
    (OK, not so green – I’m flying somewhere else tomorrow…)

    • If one really wants to be Grumpy:

      You’re asking whether these people are “compensating the CO2 they ‘produced’ by travelling in such way”. Now, my major concern with the CO2 compensation schemes the airlines or governments want to lure us into buying, is whether it offsets anything at all. Will me buying such an “offset” actually reduce the amount of CO2 produced by the airplane? Nope. Absolutely not. So where do the money go?

      My inclination is to deduce that all these fancy schemes do nothing but put even more money into the coffers of fat bureaucrats, who’ve been very successful in inventing yet another way of sucking our hard-earned cash out of our pockets for a presumably “decent” and “environmental friendly” cause. Woe all those gullible enough to buy into that crap. I, for one, am too old. I don’t believe a word of it. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in anything. Possibly except the virtues of cheap German beer.

      Now THAT’s grumpy. 😉