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Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett

Adobe’s sustainability credentials under scrutiny

Tom Raftery of Greenmonk doesn’t mince his words. In a devastating indictment of Adobe’s sustainability efforts he concludes:

So, if a company of Adobe’s size and success can get away with such a  passing regard for sustainability – are companies who take corporate  responsibility seriously like SAP, BT and IBM wasting their time and  energy?

This is something I have been concerned about for some time. Reporting is one thing as are the setting of goals and targets. Here, Adobe figures at no. 16 in Newsweek’s green rankings. Execution is quite another matter altogether.

Last week I tuned into Jeremiah Stone’s sustainability webcast to SAP Mentors. It was a great trot through what SAP is up to internally but to me fell short. I want SAP to go well beyond reporting solutions. I want it to offer solutions that actively help companies reduce their carbon footprint and engage in sustainable business practices. To me that’s where the focus of attention really needs to be put. Jeremiah says ‘watch this space.’ OK – but for how long?

In arriving at his conclusion Tom levies four charges at the company including:

A more trivial example, but as  I reported a few weeks back, Adobe charge more for downloadable,  soft copies of their software, than they do for physical shipped product  (which includes carbon associated with media, packaging and  transportation)! This wouldn’t be allowed to happen in a company with  any focus whatsoever on Sustainability.

This is something with which we can all identify and should be readily fixed by simple business processes. More crudely, a simple IF>THEN>ELSE statement in a database somewhere would solve the problem. Is Adobe working on this?

The broader question though is whether Tom is correct. One reading would say that Tom’s struggling to find evidence is just that – a lack of evidence. But if Tom is correct then his point about time and money wasting is only the tip of the iceberg. 

If business is to be truly sustainable then that has to be applied in the supply chain. I’m keenly aware this is far from trivial but it does mean that managements will be faced with tough choices. 

In this case for example and assuming Tom is right, then what does it say about SAP and Adobe’s relationship? Adobe is a strong supporter of SAP community efforts. Several Mentors are Adobe employees. They’re fine citizens who I both trust and admire. But is that enough to outweigh what Tom sees?

What do you think? Has Tom uncovered something that deserves putting under the spotlight or is it an execution issue?

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      "In this case for example and assuming Tom is right, then what does it say about SAP and Adobe's relationship? Adobe is a strong supporter of SAP community efforts. Several Mentors are Adobe employees. They're fine citizens who I both trust and admire. But is that enough to outweigh what Tom sees?"

      Would it be wise to wait for what Adobe responds with?

      Ah, but that would be too late.

      In this twitterified world tomorrow is always booked for another cause. And so we must address the accountability and ask for consequences - in time for us to move to the next tweet/blog/RSS...

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      @Ajay - Tom wrote this the other day. So yes and no.
      Author's profile photo Chris Paine
      Chris Paine
      In short, I believe it says nothing.

      The reference blog is very careful _not_ to be as you have referred to it "a devastating indictment of Adobe's sustainability efforts". Instead it clearly makes out that this is a musing on things he has seen and is worried about. No doubt very aware of the potential for liable.

      To infer that Adobe does not have a good sustainability policy is perhaps somewhat jumping the gun - especially when Adobe has not yet replied to these points - although through the joys of Twitter/RSS many people will now be aware of the concerns.

      But to infer/imply that these concerns should somehow impact the Adobe/SAP relationship is perhaps one step too far/too fast.

      Given that the blog lauds SAP "..companies who take corporate responsibility seriously like SAP..." to imply that SAP should be worried about being dirtied by association is perhaps too much.

      But then again - that's what blogs are about is it not? To provide talking points/debate. In my opinion, however, here we are trying to make a blog/issue out of something that does not in reality exist.

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      ...I'd ask you to moderate your thinking against the caveats I made in my post. I've inferred NOTHING. Also note that Tom's post was made a few days before my riff. In this day and age that is plenty of time to respond.
      Author's profile photo Chris Paine
      Chris Paine

      I agree, you have made large caveats. "In this case for example and assuming Tom is right". My point (perhaps badly made) is that these caveats are perhaps too large to base a blog on.

      Would I be right in blogging that perhaps it was a failure in an SAP quality control that caused the BP oil spill? No, I don't think I would be, even though BP do use SAP and I could caveat my blog such that "if it were the case and for example assuming it were".

      However, all that aside - this blog does succeed where many, many of the blogs in SCN fail - I'm interested, engaged and not bored silly reading it, and it has even inspired me to respond! So although my opinion may be that I think it is a step too far, that is only my opinion, and I think you are fully entitled to yours! It was an interesting and engaging blog - even if I didn't agree!


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      First, Adobe is a valued strategic partner who SAP has worked with very closely to deliver radically improved solutions to our customers.  I've personally worked on multi-year projects with Adobe and have always been impressed by their integrity and ethics.  I'm optimistic that the final story will be positive.

      On SAP's Sustainability products, while the spotlight has been on SAP's sustainability report ( and our new Sustainability Reporting and Analytics product SAP Sustainability Performance Management, our investments and efforts go far beyond reporting.

      As a solution management team I think we have fallen short in telling the stories where SAP customers are making huge strides on Sustainability, and we intend to address this with much more community interaction - "Watch this space".

      Since you call me out on the topic, I'll briefly outline where we have solutions available today and are heavily engaged in customer co-innovation to push our understanding and capabilities forward:

      * Energy and Environmental Resource Management - Solutions to measure and monitor energy to drive decisions for a sustained reduction of energy consumption and costs.

      * Operational Risk Management - Following a Management Systems approach, proactive identification and management of asset, environmental, and worker risk in operational settings from slips, trips and falls to catastrophic process incidents.

      * Sustainability Reporting and Analytics -  Reduce the time and cost spent collecting data and reporting sustainability performance through data collection automation and integration into SAP and non-SAP systems and pre-delivered content built based upon the most important reporting frameworks

      * Product Compliance - Give manufacturers a single global source for all product information, enabling them to control and mitigate supply chain and brand risk while minimizing costs and effort and sustaining or enhancing profitability and market position.

      That said, we are inspired by the challenge which you lay out, and fully admit that we have only taken the first steps on our long-term journey to work with customers and partners  to catalyze the business transformation you call for. I

      Input and honest direction from our community is key to understanding where we can and should take our solutions, and it's humbling and inspiring that there is broad support and encouragement for such aspirational goals.

      SAP's goal is to be successful in striving for a world which measures Sustainability in terms of net positive contributions socially, environmentally and financially.

      We've got an awful lot of work to do to get there.