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Month of Service 2019 (4/15) – Plastic-free until 2020: SAP employees are united by a shared purpose

This October, SAP Global Month of Service goes into its 15th round! Are you ready?
Kicking off the celebration early, we are proud to be sharing a selection of 15 inspiring volunteer experiences over the coming weeks leading up to the beginning of October.
SAP Global Month of Service, it is our company’s largest volunteer initiative. In 2018, employees volunteered in more than 900 projects in communities around the world. And it doesn’t stop with Month of Service! Our employees are leading meaningful volunteer events year-round, when and where the need arises.

This week’s story is brought to you by Luisa Dieterle from SAP’s Sustainbility Team. Luisa gives insights into SAP’s plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2020 and shows how our employees are driving sustainable change worldwide. Easy, eco-friendly habits can be established so quickly and we can all inspire each other to make small, but impactful changes – everyday.

Recognizing the Responsibility to Act

Every year, about 450 million tons of plastic are produced globally, and 9.5 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans, most of which is single-use plastic. A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation states that “given projected growth in consumption (…) by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight)” if we do not drastically change our behavior. SAP as a company believes that resource productivity is at the heart of the connected, Intelligent Enterprise, and thus, in line with SAP’s vision and purpose and the commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goal #12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”, one goal we aspire to is a world of “zero waste”.

Our passionate group of innovators is working on digital solutions, such as the SAP Plastics Cloud, to enable more than 425,000 SAP customers to shift towards a more circular, zero waste economy. In addition to those efforts, SAP aims to lead by example: to mark the 10th anniversary of its sustainability journey, the Global Environmental Policy has been updated and a new target to phase out single-use plastics by 2020 has been introduced. Employees from various SAP locations are helping to move towards this goal with grass-roots initiatives by dedicating their skill and time to make a difference.

Employees are Working Together – All over the World

In order to bring more visibility to the reality of waste, Cherry Xu and Bongkoj Promdej from SAP Labs China recently kicked off an exciting project in collaboration with Tongji Design University. With the hope of transforming SAP Labs China into a zero-waste workplace, they first identified the areas in which single-use plastics are used, and then shared employee feedback with the Global Facility Team to implement the required changes. In the coming months events such as “Lunch and Learn” and “Zero Waste Challenges” are planned. At SAP Ireland, a group of Sustainability Champions started the “Power of One” campaign to spread toolkits and tips for reducing single-use waste, and raise awareness, not only among colleagues, but also among the catering partners in their location. As a result, single-use plastics such as yogurt cups, bin bags and sandwich wrappers are starting to be replaced by more sustainable alternatives.

A similar change has happened at SAP Labs Hungary where a group of colleagues started discussions with facility management and their caterer on how to make office life more sustainable. The outcome of these discussions were that plastic single-use cups, straws and stirrers disappeared completely and more and more water bottles and glasses are being used. Employees in the SAP location in Montreal, Canada, are also phasing out plastic utensils and dishes used for events in favor of compostable alternatives, and they have started to divert waste and simplify waste sorting.

This same great spirit of collaboration can be seen when looking at the efforts SAP Spain has been making. The SAP office in Barcelona declared July as “the plastic-free month” at their office. To support their colleagues in this challenge, an expert on circular economy gave tips on how to go plastic-free. The results so far have been positive: plastic cutlery will no longer be used, coffee and tea are stirred with spoons instead of plastic stirrers, and plastic bottles have been replaced by osmosis machines. SAP Madrid organized a public screening of the documentary “An Ocean of Plastics” in their location and invited Luis Fernandez, a biologist and environmental technology consultant, to provide insights on how plastic ends up in the oceans and how to raise more awareness for the topic.

Following these great changes, Sudhansu Mohanty from SAP Labs India and his team replaced all single-use cups with ceramic cups and glasses, and all single-use bowls with ceramic bowls. Furthermore, food waste from the campus is now composted in-house with an organic waste composter. The compost is then used in gardens around the office, given away free to employees or is being used in SAP volunteer tree plantation events. However, change is not only happening within the SAP offices, but also outside the office with the help of frequent beach clean-ups. Last month, employees partnered with Clean Coasts to facilitate a clean-up event at the Poolbeg area in Dublin and the Trá Mhór close to Galway. Ander Gonzalez de Miguel says that “as [they] walked towards Sandymount, [they] realized the importance of this area for insects, birds, wildflowers and wildlife in general.” It was “great [to know] that you [were] contributing to restore an already special place and make a difference to the animals living there.” Overall, more than 15 large bags of litter were collected that day that otherwise would have been damaging the environment.

Collaboration is Key to Success

As can be seen from the results at SAP locations all over the world, it is very important to partner with people from different departments and external contractors and organizations to drive change. Consequently, the new project “Beyond Single-Use Plastic” at SAP has been set-up as a cross-team project – all joining forces to identify, eliminate, and find alternatives to single-use plastics at SAP. Even though the beginning of volunteer actions may be hard, [t]he good news is, many of those SAP teams come back and ask, “What’s next?”, says Sudhansu Mohanty. SAP is a company that empowers employees to work on projects that matter, and we have the infrastructure in place to support volunteer efforts globally. United by a shared purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, employees are teaming up to continually work on turning purpose into action and creating long-term impact.

There is still a lot of work ahead, but by volunteering at beach clean-ups and zero waste events, refusing single-use plastics in your day-to-day (office) life and starting to search for more environmentally friendly alternatives for plastic items, you will begin to live more consciously and establish new eco-friendly habits forever – and hopefully inspire others to do the same!

 

You would like to learn more about SAP’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy and programs? Check out our 2018 Ebook or visit sap.com.

You can also find out more about SAP’s Sustainability Impact and Operations, by visiting our website.

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