Executing the Sustainability
Where You Should Focus Your Efforts to Achieve Optimal Payback on Your Initiatives
by Marty Etzel and Jeremiah Stone, SAP
Managing a sustainable business is a broad and
complex challenge. It’s truly a top priority that
calls upon all parts of the enterprise to contribute.
But as the breadth and complexity of sustainability expands, so does the real business opportunity
coming from it. The business case for sustainability is no longer just about being a better corporate
citizen — it’s about being a better-run company.
The challenge is identifying the sustainability
business case (or cases) at your company and executing on it. If you haven’t yet taken these steps,
you’re not alone. According to an MIT Sloan School
of Management survey, 57% of companies believe
sustainability is necessary to be competitive, but
only 33% actually have a business case for it.;
5 Cases for Sustainability
Customers struggling with sustainability and how
to develop a business case for it have voiced vari-
ous questions, such as “What can we do to
minimize risk during the manufacturing of our
products?” and “How can we effectively manage
energy consumption across our plants?” Their
concerns fall into five business case categories:
Operational risk management
Sustainable supply chains and products
Energy and environmental resource management
Sustainable workforce management
Sustainability reporting and analytics
While each one is unique and provides both
top-line and bottom-line benefits, these business
cases combine to provide the holistic sustainabil-
ity strategy most companies seek.
; MI T Sloan Management Review, “Sustainability: The
‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage” ( Winter 20;;).
Becoming a Safer Business
Operational risk management centers on becoming a safer business, which leads to operating more
efficiently. When we asked customers what areas
of operational risk management they considered
most important, they said managing and decreasing the number of safety-related incidents,
improving employee health, decreasing their environmental impact, improving production, and
decreasing liability and compliance costs. For
example, avoiding safety-related incidents produces
the top-line benefit of a safer environment, but
also helps maintain operating continuity to create
a more efficient business. When workplace accidents and manufacturing breakdowns are reduced,
production levels increase and liability concerns
and costs decrease, benefiting the bottom line.
Becoming a Healthier Business
Both customers and regulators are demanding
greater details about your products, including the
materials they contain and what precautions are
needed. Creating sustainable supply chains and
products requires effort throughout the products’
life cycle, from avoiding toxic materials and ingredients, to tracking and reducing the amount of
carbon or sulfur dioxide produced during manufacturing. It also includes working with suppliers
on similar initiatives and sharing knowledge
across the supply chain. The top-line benefits
include healthier people, a cleaner environment,
and a stronger brand from marketing healthier
products to today’s enlightened customers.
The bottom-line benefit is a healthier revenue
stream. The company that monitors its supply
chain closely and exchanges quality and safety
Marty Etzel ( marty.etzel@sap.
com) is Vice President of
Sustainability Solutions, Solution
Marketing, at SAP. He directs
a team and coordinates all
marketing activity across SAP for
solution positioning, demand
generation, and market-facing
activity. Previously, he worked for
over 20 years in manufacturing,
much of the time in bulk
Jeremiah Stone (jeremiah.
firstname.lastname@example.org) is Senior
Director of Sustainability
Solutions, Solution Management, at SAP. He leads SAP’s
teams for Operational Risk
Management and Sustainable
Supply Chains and Products. Prior
to SAP, he worked in aviation.
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