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SAP users ramp up ESG efforts

The UK & Ireland SAP User Group is developing a special interest group to help their members hit their ESG goals more effectively

The UK & Ireland SAP User Group is stepping up its efforts to help members better realise their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

The organisation, which has 600-plus members, numbering some 7,500 IT professionals, set up a “special interest group” on ESG matters this year. This was off the back of a CIO-level forum at its 2021 annual conference in Birmingham in November.

Paul Cooper, chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group, told Computer Weekly that the forum, with around 25 IT directors present, highlighted sustainability as a major topic of interest at that time. “And it’s the E part of ESG that this is mainly about,” he said, adding that the matter of mounting energy bills is a major factor behind growing interest in this area among SAP customers.

The special interest group is chaired by Craig Dixon, IT director for Europe at Plastipak, a US-based plastics packaging company.

Cooper said there is a “broad range of sectors” involved in the SIG, “including manufacturing, services, education, food and retail”.

The user group will be introducing the SIG as the UKISUG Sustainability Community, with the first in a series of webinars on Wednesday 14 September. Allied to this, it has published research that suggests 70% of SAP user organisations believe SAP’s technology will help them meet their ESG goals – and that 94% of 124 SAP user organisations surveyed in June 2022 are stating that ESG factors will influence their future technology-buying decisions.

The survey said ESG has become “a lot” more important to three-quarters (76%) of respondents in the past year. However, more than a third (38%) said the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain disruption and the war in Ukraine all risk delaying ESG initiatives.

Read more about hitting your ESG goals

In a statement, Cooper said: “There is no denying that ESG has risen up the corporate agenda in recent years, as organisations recognise the need to better look after their people and the planet.

“Technology clearly has an important role in supporting the ESG agenda both now and in the future. SAP sits at the heart of many organisations, so there is a great opportunity for them to utilise their SAP data to drive better insights and help meet their ESG goals.”

He added that it is essential for corporate organisations to gain a clear view of existing business practices and suppliers to report on labour practices and carbon emissions effectively.

The survey revealed that only 31% of organisations are “very confident” that they can report on their current labour practices. And when it comes to reporting on carbon emissions, there is a distinct lack of insight into so-called Scope 3 emissions. Only 38% are confident they can report on those, that is to say those that an organisation is indirectly responsible for across its value chain.

Lindsey Rowe, head of purpose programmes and sustainability for SAP UK & Ireland, said: “SAP is in a privileged position to be at the core of our customers’ technology transformation journeys and, in line with the survey findings, we also see technology and data as crucial to achieving sustainability goals.”

The survey shows that the majority (87%) of organisations surveyed have ESG goals in place. When asked how SAP’s metrics tools could meet these goals, identifying and reducing waste across the organisation (25%) was the most popular response, followed by making the supply chain more sustainable (21%), analysing and reporting on carbon emissions (19%), and adopting or benchmarking against industry best practices (13%).

SAP has a “Climate 21” programme which aims to help organisations understand and minimise the carbon footprint of their products and operations. According to the survey, a fifth (21%) of respondents had heard of it.

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