SAP Canada’s Executive on 2022 Sustainability Goals

Gina leads the SAP Canada Growth Segment with a client-first, customer-obsessed mindset and a proactive approach to change. Gina’s teams have achieved unprecedented growth, and she is determined to ensure all her clients become the best-run versions of themselves quickly and efficiently.

How has the climate for sustainability changed over the past few years? Do you see sustainability becoming more important in the years to come?

Sustainability has become both a mega-trend and a global challenge. Businesses realize that it’s not enough just to talk about it. They are really thinking about how to approach sustainability efforts overall and opting for strategies that truly impact how they run and operate their business, from all aspects, with tangible results.

To address this challenge, companies must adopt new solutions that allow business and their ecosystem to be transparent. Consumers, stakeholders, and investors are now taking extra consideration and putting thought into whom they do business with, based on how they are addressing sustainability. If a business is not willing to transform, they are finding that clients and partners are shifting and moving their spending in favour of businesses that are taking these efforts seriously.

In the retail space, we have seen H&M, Patagonia, Ikea, and North Face incorporate recycling programs that directly impact their customers. In the automotive industry, Tesla paved the path for electric vehicles, resulting in many auto brands following suit to create electric versions to meet market demand. These companies have shifted their business, and sustainability is now a core part of their operations.

What do you think is the most important part of sustainability in business?

We know that there has been a 44 percent increase in talk of sustainability on earnings calls over the past five years, and it is being included in a company’s financial reporting. We are now seeing that non-financial sustainability indicators, such as emissions, waste, workplace environments and inequality within the business chain, are having a financial impact and are being considered risks if they are not managed properly. This means that companies need to incorporate sustainability into their business practices.

To make sustainability easier for businesses, they need to become more data-centric, with a centralized, easy-to-use, end-to-end system. Companies can’t afford to spend time finding the data. They should be spending their time using it to impact meaningful change.

SAP found that 86 percent of companies still use spreadsheets to measure emissions data and don’t know how to integrate sustainability into their core business strategy. This problem can create a chain reaction impacting transparency and accuracy… and ultimately, preventing them from moving forward on this important agenda.

We understand that SAP has several business sustainability practices in place. Can you tell us more about them?

SAP solutions for sustainability are helping to deliver environmental, social, and economic impact. We are helping businesses create a future with zero emissions, zero waste, and zero inequality. Our enterprise solutions deliver company-wide functionality that helps drive sustainability at scale by embedding operations, experience, and financial insights into your core business processes.

For example, SAP offers ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) intelligent sustainability reporting. It gathers data from a business system and processes to find where they excel and/or can do better with their sustainability efforts.

We are helping businesses to enable a sustainable supply chain with circular economy solutions designed to eliminate waste and build a sustainable supply chain by integrating ethical and environmentally responsible business practices.

For customers that want to track their carbon emissions and minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their products and operations along the value chain, we also use embedded analytics and transactional capabilities to allow them to understand and control their footprint throughout the entire process.

SAP is focused on transparency. We are enabling everyone to share data and collectively improve upon the sustainability challenges we face as a society.

Why do you believe sustainable business practices are important for SAP? Do you think that other companies are beginning to adopt similar practices?

Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have. It has become a business imperative. Not only are stakeholders demanding better accountability, but clients are also too. There has been a power shift. Customers and consumers are demanding to work with brands they trust. They are not afraid to break ties with organizations that aren’t supporting climate change or turning a blind eye to unethical working conditions.

Society demands ethical business practices. It’s important to ensure that the companies and sources businesses invest in and work with share the same goals and objectives in reaching sustainability. These are joint efforts that won’t succeed unless everyone works together. SAP is responsible for setting standards that help our clients and enabling ourselves and others to do so with transparency.

What challenges does SAP face regarding implementing and maintaining sustainable practices?

One major challenge is the evolving need for change. With the expectation from our clients to continue building a better future with new technology, we need to combine that with other efforts such as sustainability, transparency, and ethical practices. As business leaders, we need to focus on the economic value of bringing these needs together so we can bridge the current sustainability performance gap among businesses.

Do you have any recommendations on how to make sustainability a priority for businesses?

One thing that experts agree on is that a delay on climate action will lead to devastating results. Every organization is focused on sustainability in some way, whether they are a large enterprise or an SME. These organizations all face challenges in how they analyze and understand their sustainability issues. While improving sustainability efforts or simply starting the journey can seem daunting, it is necessary. Ultimately, it will pay off culturally, morally, and financially. Businesses need to define their journey and build a plan.

Here are a few tips on how to get started:

Become a data-centric business: At the heart of sustainability, the journey is transforming into a data-centric business. Businesses can’t act on something they can’t measure. To identify the next steps in their sustainability journey and measure success, businesses must collect and analyze the right data.

Adopt a circular business model: This model reduces waste by mimicking nature, where the waste of one process is the resource input to another. To avoid falling into a linear model, your business can adopt solutions that help track sustainability progress, calculate product carbon emissions, and manage plastic tax, for example.

Implement a sustainable business strategy: This works best when sustainability is centralized and progress is measured and reported transparently and regularly.

Prioritize people across your value chain: Invest in the people who drive your business by investing in diversity and inclusion efforts, training and growth opportunities, and leveraging your financial power to make sustainability a priority.

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