SAP: Rise in business travel is challenge to CO2 reductions

German software giant was able to keep emissions from going, but recovering economy will make sustainability policy more challenging.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

No one said this was going to be easy, right? As promised, SAP is updating its ongoing corporate sustainability report on a quarterly basis. Although its data for the quarter ended June 30, 2010, show a slight decrease in carbon dioxide emissions (from 120 kilotonnes to "115 kilotonnes," the company reports that it was harder to manage this reduction as employees got on airplanes again in a recovering economy. Here's an excerpt from the update released this week:

"As we look to decrease emissions, limiting employee air travel is currently a top priority for SAP as this heavily contributes to our footprint. Air travel figures are currently higher compared with last year -- which can be explained by the need to support renewed business demands following economic challenges in 2009. While travel to support our customers is a priority for the organization, we are working to provide our employees greater insight into the situation and encourage travel alternatives such as virtual meetings. As part of this effort we plan to invest further in Telepresence systems throughout our offices to support communications with customers, partners, employees and stakeholders."

Here's the thing: Much of the progress made by some companies over the past two years came at a time when they were experiencing revenue declines, not growth. SAP has pledged to stay below 460 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide emissions for the year, and it admits it will be tough to meet this objective as employees start getting on planes again for calls on sales prospects and business partners. Its long-term goal by the year 2020 is 275 kilotonnes, which is about half its pre-2007 levels of 540 kilotonnes.

So, we're going to hear about offsets again, I predict. That means businesses will make compromises: allowing increased travel, for example, while continuing to source more renewable energy or further reducing energy usage in their data center.

Sustainability is a never-ending process.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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