Energy efficiency is SAP's strongest 2010 sustainability success story

The software company's latest sustainability report offers interactive, visual view into its key corporate social responsibility initiatives.

SAP has realized that to be credible as a provider of software and services to help other companies walk their corporate sustainability talk, it needs to provide a real-world example. So far, it continues to do pretty well. In the 2010 SAP Sustainability Report, the giant enterprise software company reports a reduction of 6 percent in greenhouse gas emissions, in the face of revenue growth. SAP's goal is a 65 percent reduction over 2000 levels by 2020. To date, SAP reports, it has cut emissions by 25 percent, so it still has a long way to go.

In an introduction to the report, SAP co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe write: "We have come to recognize that best-run businesses do not simply embrace a sustainability strategy. Instead, they make their corporate strategy sustainable."

SAP's report is one of the most interactive you will see, providing many of its metrics visually -- great if you are sick of 120-page PDF documents. For example, if you visit the site's page specific to energy consumption (one of SAP's biggest success stories), you can click on different portions of the chart to adjust the visual display. In 2010, the company used 791 gigawatt-hours of electricity, down from 808 gigawatt-hours in 2009. About 48 percent of that amount is generated via renewable energy. The graph below isn't live, but it gives you an idea of how much of SAP's sustainability data is reported.

Another big metric that is vitally important for any IT company: Its data center energy consumption. Here, too, SAP has a positive story to tell: It reduced overall data center power usage to 134 gigawatt hours in 2010, off from 147 gigawatt hours. It did this despite a growth of more than 2,000 in headcount (not including its Sybase division). That means its kilowatt-hours-consumption-per-employee metric is 2,763 kilowatt-hours, down from 3,038 kilowatt hours.

Approximately 49 percent of SAP's servers now use virtualization software. Overall, the company ditched more than 2,700 older servers in 2010 that were consuming higher amounts of energy than is what is possible with newer models.

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