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Fractured Sustainability

I’ve noticed that the discussion about sustainability on both the and SDN community sites are as scattered as the wind towers on the slopes of Palm Springs, California.  Though the silos are numerous, each houses some fascinating discussions (and often times, debates) on various aspects of sustainability (or sometimes more simply: being “green”).  So while the world attempts to digest the many facets of sustainability, I propose that we bring the dialogue together within the SAP community towards developing a better understanding of what sustainability means to each of us (including SAP) and how to embrace sustainability towards a more environmentally responsible, socially responsible and profitable end.   

[Even while writing the content for this page, I discovered this release regarding a new Green IT community]

Accordingly, I propose a new wiki on sustainability that has as its core components: 

  1. Sustainability Components and Definitions
  2. Sustainability Standards
  3. The Case for Sustainability
  4. Corporate Strategies
  5. Supply Chain, Impact and Initiatives
  6. Performance Indicators and Reporting (including GRI)
  7. PR, Marketing and Communications
  8. Sustainability Carry-Out (or the “at-home” version)
  9. SAP Applications for sustainability
  10. Forums and Blogs (including the new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR))
  11. SAP’s Sustainability 

Within each of these components, our discussion will center on: 

  • What’s Been Said – we’ll gather every dialogue on sustainability from within the community and from SAP itself
  • What’s Being said – we’ll go outside the network to scour the world for reports on sustainability from the front lines
  • What SAP is Saying – We’ll address the 2008 (and soon-to-be-released 2009) SAP Sustainability Reports
  • What You are Saying – We’ll dialogue about your own sustainability initiatives, including the use of SAP applications or the need for same. 

However, I’m a firm believer that in order to get closer to something, sometimes you first need to get farther away.  To this end, we need to explore the very concept of sustainability, not towards a settlement of the debate over solar versus wind, hybrid versus fuel cell, recycling versus reducing and repurposing, ethanol versus vegetable oil, etc., but towards obtaining the knowledge set necessary to fully understand and embrace the very concept of sustainability, its evolution, how it impacts us and we it, and how we can profit from it (the third prong of “The Triple Bottom Line”).  Above all else, we need to step back and get philosophical, ideological, theoretical and perhaps a little nonsensical all in the hopes of becoming more sustainable. 

So as you celebrate Earth Day today, ask yourself the most pressing of all sustainability questions: What the heck does that word mean anyway?  

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  • We might want to structure the list of topics a bit differently. Specifically, I think we should separate them into groups for:
    * Foundational stuff that is independent of solutions, products, industries, etc.
    * Domain Specific, which consists of areas that will vary, e.g. by industry. This has the advantage of limiting scope and makes it easier for people to focus on the areas that they find most interesting
    * SAP specific which is for topics that apply just to SAP.

    Some topics might appear in more than one area. If we took this approach then the list might look something like this …

    – Sustainability Components and Definitions
    – The Case for Sustainability
    – Corporate Strategies
    – PR, Marketing and Communications
    – Forums and Blogs
    – Sustainability Standards
    – Performance Indicators and Reporting (including GRI)

    *Domain Specific*
    – Supply Chain, Impact and Initiatives
    – Green IT (new addition)
    – Sustainability Carry-Out (or the “at-home” version)

    – SAP’s Sustainability 
    – SAP Applications for sustainability

    The last three items under foundational, i.e. Forums & Blogs, Sustainability Standards and Performance Indicators might be repeated under domain specific


  • A nice blog, Neal, to bring order to the scattered views.
    The way to go about it is especially nice and constructive.
    What struck me was your highlighting the ‘need to step back’ as the first step!
    And later while conversing not to move towards a settlement..or settling a score.. but towards knowing and truly embracing what is understood!
    And acting for it.
    One point that came to my mind is whether the urgency also may have to be incorporated.

    Sam Anbazhagan

    • Thanks for the post, Sam.  I appreciate the comments.  You raise a fascinating point regarding urgency.  From my point of view, the precursor to sustainability is not necessarily urgency yet rather an ongoing and evolving commitment to best business practices focusing on environmental, social and fiscal components.  In other words, we don’t even need the threat of global climate change to find reason to be sustainable. Here’s a rather grandiose discussion from one of my posts back in early ’08.
      Sustainability 2008

      Though I certainly agree that there is urgency in addressing climate change, I do not believe that we need that as a motivation for adopting more sustainable (and thereby, more profitable) business practices.

      I look forward to your thoughts.