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I wrote a post over on my RedMonk blog, but I figured some of the content was probably most relevant to the SCN community. So here it is:

“Before Leo took the CEO role SAP had a fairly traditional approach to Corporate Social Responsibility and Citizenship. They had one of the best guys in the space – James Farrar – making contacts, winning friends, and helping steer corporate ships to better outcomes. I met Transparency International through James. Indeed- James helped me understand that CSR is relevant to business, rather than just being a less than benign form of PR. But CSR still felt a little homespun at the company.

Until Leo pulled the trigger, that is. He created the role of Chief Sustainability Officer and gave it to one of SAP’s rising stars, Peter Graf. Here is Graf getting excited about cutting paper use. Sustainability at SAP had to be sustainable, which meant making it a product-driven activity that was going to help the top and bottom line. Apotheker made sustainability a watch word of his tenure – presenting his ideas at CeBIT for example.

I am currently chairing of a group of external stakeholders advising SAP on its Sustainability Reporting and Strategy.  I am not being paid directly for my role, but I do have a client relationship with the sustainability business unit. The stakeholder panel is pretty stellar – Bill “Cradle to Cradle” McDonough is one of the advisers! The project’s sponsor, who we were set to report to next Month – none other than Leo Apotheker. Leo takes a personal interest in sustainability. He wasn’t interested in a corporate fig leaf, but growing a big tree with deep roots.

SAP’s Sustainability product strategy is in increasingly good shape. The firm has built and bought new technology to fill out its portfolio, linking Governance, Risk And Compliance with environmental concerns such as Health and Safety and Chemicals Reporting. My colleague Tom Raftery writes up SAP’s Sustainability KPI tool here.

Leo’s legacy is that he took Sustainability seriously and made it part of SAP’s spine, rather than being a fingers and toes activity. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Leo for continuing to stress the importance of sustainability even as the economy collapsed. 

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  1. Vijay Vijayasankar
    Very nice of you, James, to highlight this important aspect of Leo’s legacy. I hope people remember this about the man, and not just the issues with maintenance prices, BBD etc.
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  2. Marilyn Pratt
    Well said James and Vijay, and honored James that you post here as you and your colleague Tom Raftery certainly don’t lack for audience on your own   Redmonk and   Greenmonk blogs. So thank you for the visit and especially thank you for the topic you’ve chosen to expose here.
    Concerning Leo’s Sustainability legacy and CSR themes, one thing that has struck a deep chord with me lately as an employee of SAP and a volunteer in virtual community work with Haitians on the ground and in the diaspora,  is that Leo put a long-term SAP commitment in place to help “Raise Haiti” from its dire disaster state.  While I know that other SAP leaders before him have certainly been champions of social responsibility (Ernie Gunst was quite a proponent as I understand Bill McDermott is said to be as well), I recently observed that Leo not only promised to match and double (and in the states that means triple) employee donations to organizations aiding in the Haitian disaster (which is in and of itself quite trend setting and inspiring), but he also thought more holistically about future investments and support to Haiti and promised a 5 year grant.  I don’t recall hearing many other companies talking about being engaged in a sustainable Haiti “for the long haul” . So I thought this rather remarkable as many of us moved to help the earthquake victims and the Haitian people didn’t really think beyond immediate aid.  I’m very proud that there is some long-term sustainable-thinking plan in place not only from a tools, business and strategy perspective as a “Leo Legacy” but I’m also glad that Leo injected some of the traditional CSR flavors with long-term commitments which we can think of as sustainable social responsibility.
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