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Two-dimensional sustainability

Using SAP solutions and operations to tackle carbon footprints.

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Uwe Birkenhauer, Head of SAP Portfolio at T-Systems

Uwe Birkenhauer, Head of SAP Portfolio at T-Systems

Let’s be honest: The only thing we know for sure so far are Germany’s national targets and the EU’s guidelines. There needs to be a 55 percent drop in CO₂ emissions by 2030 in order to prevent climate collapse. But many businesses are still only at the very start of their sustainability journey. What role can SAP play in achieving climate targets? We spoke to Uwe Birkenhauer about this.

Uwe Birkenhauer, Head of SAP Portfolio at T-Systems, has been following SAP trends and developments for years. He’s familiar with user needs, as well as SAP’s plans for further developing its services.

What sustainability-related trends are you observing at SAP’s end?

There are essentially two developments. The more recent of the two is that SAP has recognized the business potential that sustainability offers, and is now also offering software solutions designed to help businesses determine and improve their product footprint. The second aspect – transferring SAP workloads to the cloud – has been widespread for several years now.

Is the cloud a “cure-all”, including for sustainability? 

The fact is that on-premises operation of SAP systems can never achieve the same efficiency and economies of scale as professional operations in the cloud. Thew cloud’s scalability enables resources to be optimally tailored to current operations. Smart capacity usage and cooling concepts give rise to further synergies. Together with the reduced memory requirements of modern S/4HANA systems, server capacities can be freed up by up to 75 percent, meaning a clear reduction in the energy used, and therefore in CO₂. 

Are there differences between the public and private cloud?

The deployment model does not play a crucial role. How the data centers behind it operate, and whether they are managed intelligently, is much more important. The PUE or “Power Usage Effectiveness” value, that is the ratio between energy used for pure processing power and the total energy used by the data center, is one of the key parameters here – along with the sources of the power used. We are seeing that hyperscalers are also focusing on “green”, energy-efficient data center operations. All players are pulling together.

How does this work at T-Systems?

We’ve been powering our data centers with 100% green electricity for years. With their LEED Gold certifications, our facilities in Biere/Magdeburg are among the most modern and energy-efficient data centers in Europe with a PUE of 1.3. Moving SAP workloads to our private cloud thus clearly reduces the carbon footprint. This is one of the reasons we’ve been awarded the Green Magenta Label.

What is this label worth? Can the savings be quantified?

While the Green Magenta Label is a seal granted internally within the telecom industry, the certification process is comparable to awarding external certificates like the Climate Neutral Data Center and LEED. We go through a multi-stage process during which we have to prove what we have done to be more sustainable. One of the results is that, on average, our customers are saving eight tons of CO₂ per SAP system each year.

Editor’s note: The “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” certification process was developed by the US Green Building Council, and is the worldwide standard for assessing energy-saving properties.

That sounds a bit like the famous Quick Wins…

That’s exactly what they are. Terminating your own operations shifts the carbon-footprint responsibility onto the service provider – who also has to prove they have cut emissions. But moving to the cloud is of course only one basis for sustainability, and serves to improve IT’s CO₂ footprint. User companies will not be able to avoid setting up their own reporting and management systems for sustainability and examining their entire value chain in order to operate in a truly sustainable manner.

And that’s where the new SAP solutions come in?

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We pool sustainability concepts with the possibilities offered by SAP.

Correct. The thinking behind this is simple: If a lot of data and processes are already being provided in the SAP systems, or are flowing into them, why shouldn’t you use this opportunity to also utilize the information for sustainability aspects? SAP now offers a small ecosystem of services for this, designed to help assess data and simulate process changes to the carbon footprint. This includes, among other things, SAP Product Footprint Management.

But that’s not where the sustainability management problem lies.

In my opinion, the greatest challenges lie in actually assessing the carbon footprint of a product or component. There will definitely be major differences – depending on how and where, for example, a kilogram of copper is made. This requires valid data that needs to be fed into the SAP system. Last but not least, there also needs to be a comprehensive concept, a sustainability strategy, to ensure the initiatives are successful and target-oriented. Nevertheless, high-performance software tools are an important piece of the puzzle for professional sustainability management.

So no shortage of work for sustainability consultants, then?

It’s a young market that customers first need to get their bearings around – but it is secure. Our consultancy focus is very SAP-oriented, however. We pool sustainability concepts with the possibilities offered by SAP. And our colleagues at Detecon also take care of the whole thing, developing sustainability strategies and collecting and analyzing the right data. As such, customers receive a full package from initial concept to implementation in SAP – including with other tools that may be more suitable and, in some cases, are an even better fit for the company. 

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