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Author's profile photo Gunther Rothermel

SAP enables turning environmental footprint calculations at scale into a regular habit

Have you ever tried changing your behavior and picking up a new thing? For example, do you happen to be one of the many people who realized during the pandemic lockdowns that you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle and that you need to exercise more?

If you haven’t been running at all before and if you are not a natural runner, it is very hard to get off the couch and onto the street. And once you do exercise and feel the effort, the sweat and the pain, it is very tempting to find excuses for not doing it again very soon. However, for physical exercise to have a meaningful impact on your health status, it is important to move from a one-off activity to a regular habit.

What often helps with turning an initially uncomfortable one-off activity into a regular habit is some kind of positive feedback loop, something that proves how an action has a positive impact. Many people who start running buy a fitness tracker or a smart watch to monitor their heart rate, their cardio fitness, their burned calories, their pace, their completed distances and more. Seeing the improving numbers helps to stay motivated and on course. The various fitness KPIs help to adjust fitness plans on-the-fly according to how the body reacts.

All organizations, and our society as a whole faces such a situation when it comes to sustainability. We all know that we have to act. Now. By now, most companies have realized that their businesses have to become fit for the new age for sustainable business models in order to meet the changing expectations of buyers and investors and to fulfill the obligations of governments. Without acting, things like the “Fit for 55” program, the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in the EU as well as changing consumer behavior around the globe can really put their businesses at risk. But for many organizations, best practices for sustainability are not a regular business habit yet.

One key aspect of sustainability is the calculation and management of environmental footprints across the product portfolio. So far, companies which want to become more sustainable have been trying to calculate their environmental footprints via cumbersome and time-consuming one-off activities. They manually pulled together data from various departments and branches and used tools like simple spreadsheets to consolidate the data. However, such an approach does not scale and cannot easily be turned into a regular habit, particularly not if it needs to be done for thousands of products and hundreds of branches. The increasing demand for sustainability data from investors and governments cannot effectively and efficiently be fulfilled via manual one-off activities. In addition, up-to-date sustainability data needs to be available all the time to steer a company towards a sustainable intelligent enterprise. Finally, the individual companies alone often lack full visibility into end-to-end business processes and supply chains which then leads to inaccurate footprint numbers that might get challenged by governments or competitors.

Today SAP added another new product to its fast-growing sustainability management product portfolio which exactly addresses this challenge. SAP Product Footprint Management turns the very high efforts of integrating data and deriving environmental footprints on product level and at scale into reasonable efforts. This is done by reusing existing business data, providing governance and flexibility for the footprint calculations as well as integrating that information back into the relevant end-to-end business processes. Available pre-configurations combined with service offerings available from SAP and partners simplify and accelerate the adoption of the solution by customers. Like all SAP products, SAP Product Footprint Management has been designed to offer enterprise-class functionality supporting SAP’s product standards, e.g. with respect to security, support and performance. SAP Product Footprint Management complements our existing proven SAP Environment Health and Safety Environment Management solution which already allowed customers to track and manage their environmental footprints on a corporate level.

Like with physical exercise, running a marathon on the first day or running seven days per week right from the beginning, will be overwhelming. Likewise, companies are often more successful in their transformation into a sustainable intelligent enterprise if they have high ambitions but take a stepwise approach. Especially due to things like the alarming reports from the IPCC and the almost daily reports of extreme weather events around the world, everybody is paying high attention to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, with the initial release of SAP Product Footprint Management we focus on CO2 emissions as just one of numerous environmental footprints which we plan to cover over time.

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Monitoring Footprints in SAP Product Footprint Management

Examples of key capabilities of SAP Product Footprint Management are:

  • Data Acquisition:
    SAP Product Footprint Management allows integrating business activity and master data from SAP S/4HANA.
  • Emission Factors Management:
    SAP Product Footprint Management enables importing emission factors from lifecycle assessment data to calculate footprints at scale across the entire product inventory.
  • Footprint Calculation:
    Business users can maintain footprint calculation templates for purchased products including the association of products using emission factors from lifecycle assessment data to enable bottom-up footprint calculation.
  • Footprint Integration:
    SAP S/4HANA end-to-end business processes can be extended by embedding product footprint information covering greenhouse gas emissions.

No single party has all the required data points covering business processes and supply chains end-to-end. Therefore, we also aspire the exchange of data and the collaboration via business networks. For this, we are building on our experience from broadly adopted global business networks like SAP Ariba for procurement and supply as well as SAP Concur for travel management. With respect to CO2 emissions, earlier this year SAP joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) as an innovation partner in WBCSD’s Value Chain Carbon Transparency Pathfinder. We joined this alliance since SAP is committed to supporting data exchange formats and standards as they emerge. SAP is actively collaborating with various organizations and alliances to help shape those standards and to ensure early adoption of these standards in our various sustainability products including SAP Product Footprint Management.

Through collaborations and partnerships like these ones, SAP wants to provide customers with the full transparency into sustainability KPIs along end-to-end business processes and complete supply chains.

We are also working on embedding sustainability in a bidirectional way into our various line-of-business applications via predefined data integration scenarios and reuse components. For example, we are now displaying product footprints while processing purchase requisitions. This way, we are establishing sustainability as an embedded additional dimension of success across business processes and applications.

To make it easy for our partners to integrate and contribute and to achieve a maximum level of extensibility for our customers, we are using the SAP Business Technology Platform including its growing number of services as a core component of our sustainability management portfolio.

As already announced at the SAP Sustainability Summit 2021 in April, there is much more to expect from SAP in the area of sustainability over the next months. We develop our sustainability management solutions by constantly collecting feedback from our customers and partners and adjusting our products accordingly. Next in line are SAP Responsible Design and Production and SAP Sustainability Control Tower which both are currently in beta testing by numerous customers. Thus, there is much more to expect from SAP in the next months!

Details about the features and benefits of SAP Product Footprint Management can be found in the upcoming blog post by Nico Wottke. In order to stay up-to-date related to SAP Product Footprint Management and other sustainability management solutions from SAP, please follow the tag Sustainability and visit your Sustainability Community.

On we go with the implementation of sustainable business processes!

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      Author's profile photo Arvind Sundaresan
      Arvind Sundaresan

      Lovely analogy Gunther and very well articulated. Our Footprint Management capabilities is also relevant for corporates not only manufacturing tangible goods/ products, but those who operate in services industries. Hope this solution helps bridge further the "knowing-doing" gap across industries and collectively help make world a better place for tomorrow.