The IPCC Report 2021
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its most worrying report. Although the four horsemen of the apocalypse are not with us yet there is definitely a need to take immediate and lasting action. Governments have not addressed the problem and SAP sustainability solutions and other industry initiatives need to pick up the pace.
The report states that changes in climate are found in every region across the whole climate system. Many of these changes have not happened before in thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of years. Changes such as sea level rise are effectively irreversible.
We are already seeing the disastrous effects of climate change. Human production of carbon dioxide through the use of fossil fuels, and emissions of greenhouse gases is the main issue. The report recommends strong and sustained reduction of CO2 emissions to limit climate change.
A Climate Change Reality Check
While air quality would improve quickly if these changes were made, it would take 20-30 years for temperatures to stabilise. Even if we follow this advice there will be increased extremes of rainfall and drought for that time. Even now there are extremely large-scale wildfires caused by high temperatures and drought conditions in Turkey, Greece, Russia, North America, and Peru.
IPCC Working Group 1 Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte said: “This report is a reality check. We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”
Governments Are Failing To Act
Despite governments now responding to public pressure and accepting the reality of climate change, they have yet to put in place legislation that ensures that individuals and organisations improve their contributions to the problem in a meaningful way.
For example: the UK is hosting COP26, the conference of the parties of the Paris agreement on climate change in Scotland in November this year, but the Conservative government of the UK is still allowing the development of new fossil fuel extraction. Instead of providing inspiration as the hosts of COP26 the Conservative government has agreed to permit a deep coal mine in the north of England by West Cumbria Mining, and also the exploitation of the 800 million barrel Cambo oil field near the Shetland Islands. This action directly contradicts the advice of the International Energy Agency. The IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said in May that: “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now: from this year”.
The Private Sector Must Step Up
This tendency for governments to say that they understand the need for action on climate change but not to take action to support climate change mitigation can be seen in all governments. Fossil fuel and other industry lobby groups are constantly putting pressure on governments to allow their industries to flourish at the expense of everyone. The projects are often excused because they provide jobs and a trickle-down benefit to the local economy, but the same logic does not apply to the extent of financing sustainable energy infrastructure projects so that nations can be freed of their dependence on fossil fuels.
The failure of governments to rein in environmentally damaging industrial projects or facilitate structural change in energy generation means that it has become crucial for the future of humanity for the private sector to take up the challenge to diminish their own environmental impacts. In the absence of the necessary legislation, individuals and corporations must at the very least impose their own rules and regulations to ensure that all profits are now achieved through efficient and sustainable practices, and carbon is accounted for, and offset.
What Can One IT Consultant Do?
Everyone has to do their part for the common good, and it is unrealistic to assume that one person or organisation can provide the counter-balance to generations of environmental mismanagement, but individual IT professionals can make it their mission to join the thousands of others who are making the necessary changes, one company at a time.
While sustainability consulting is not new, it is becoming increasingly important, and IT professionals are (above all other people) best placed to put in place systems to gather, monitor and analyse information about business processes in order to help corporations and even small to medium-sized business achieve their sustainability and carbon accounting goals.
So if you are concerned about the environment and the need to transform industry and commerce into a genuinely beneficial influence on the world, rather than a major contributor to climate change, then now is the time to consider specialising as a sustainability consultant. This career path will not only provide a substantial income but also give you a chance to be at the forefront of the challenge to literally save the world.
The Science of ERP
Though originally designed with a view to achieving financial goals, ERP provides a conceptual foundation for improving the efficiency, and so the sustainability of a business. Software platforms such as SAP solutions can provide the means for sustainability consultants to help businesses to transform their processes so that the goals of sustainability and profitability are aligned. If you want your efforts to help more companies become more sustainable, learning about SAP sustainability solutions will give you the expertise to consult with the 400,000 companies that use SAP to help manage their business processes.
IT professionals specialising in sustainability can use the platform as a means to apply a scientific method: to study a business as a complex phenomenon and gather data for analysis. Interpretation of this data can result in a hypothesis as to the best means of improving the business. Improvement in the case of sustainability means finding ways to maintain or even increase the revenue while decreasing the use of energy and other resources.
The Scientific Method of SAP
IgniteSAP has discussed in detail the conceptual foundation of SAP software in the scientific method before. This is how we apply the same method in the context of the professional activity of a sustainability consultant:
We assess a complex system (like a business) by establishing categories of measurement and specific metrics within those categories. Data is then collected, and automated systems of data-collection are established. Then the data is interpreted in a way that creates a model of the status quo that is a true analogue of the actualities (updated in real-time).
Assessment of that model is carried out, and then we begin to model the continued behaviour of that complex system if the status quo remains. New goals or idealised conditions for that system (for example increasing profits while also decreasing waste) can then be proposed.
In the last step in the cycle we work back down through the conceptual levels until changes in human interaction with that system, and changes in the system itself, can be instigated which cause those idealised conditions to be brought into actuality.
SAP Sustainability Solutions
So what products should you learn about in order to qualify as an SAP practitioner specialising in sustainability? SAP has now embedded sustainability into its entire product line. As part of the Climate21 initiative SAP has been developing software designed to address carbon accounting and other environmental sustainability goals such as reduce greenhouse gases. However, many of these products are not released yet and so you will not find courses for them on the SAP Training shop or elsewhere, but you can expect these to appear along with the releases over the third quarter of this year. Over time these solutions will become crucial to corporate sustainability targets. We will take a quick look at these before moving on to more familiar SAP products which can contribute to a skillset for an SAP sustainability consultant.
SAP Product Footprint Management
SAP Product Footprint Management is now SAP’s primary environmental sustainability solution. It aims to help companies assess the environmental impact of a product so they can manage their environmental responsibilities. We can expect it to be available in the next couple of months.
Sustainability information is embedded in S/4HANA so that the product footprint can be assessed through SAP Analytics Cloud at any point. The initial version of SAP Product Footprint Management will track carbon emissions resulting from raw materials, manufacture and distribution, even to the product’s carbon footprint in use by the customer. This will also be extended soon to track the usage of water, energy, and land.
Providing a means to measure environmental impact at the product level allows businesses to responsibly manage their commercial activities across all their lines of business. This means that they can also have insights which can feedback into responsible product design and ensure that they can comply with upcoming legislation on commercial activities and carbon footprints.
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If you want to be able to offer a service implementing SAP Product Footprint Management you will need to become familiar with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, along with SAP Analytics Cloud and the Product Footprint Management platform itself: the API and the standardised framework for organising product footprint information. Courses in SAP Product Management itself have not been developed yet but we can expect these to follow its release so keep checking and be one of the first to get globally certified.
SAP Business Ecology Management
Another carbon accounting application that has been introduced is SAP Business Ecology Management. This cloud application is targeted at small to medium-sized businesses and gives them clarity on their carbon footprint: allowing them to be more transparent about this with their customers.
It integrates into SAP Business ByDesign and SAP Business One and is easier to implement or adapt. EU regulations such as the Green Deal will affect companies of all sizes, but SMBs have less working capital to make these changes when they need to so SAP created SAP Business Ecology Management to cater to these needs. These type of businesses are the backbone of the economy in the EU because they make up 99% of the total. Consequently if you are looking to implement change for a greener economy as an IT professional, you should also be able to integrate SAP Business Ecology Management for this largest sector of the economy.
If you want to help companies monitor the carbon footprint of the air travel of their workforce then get familiar with SAP Concur. TripIT by Concur also shows ways to minimise and offset carbon inside the user interface.
SAP S/4HANA Cloud
SAP S/4HANA Cloud is the most important product for a potential SAP sustainability consultant to study as it is the core that connects so many aspects of a sustainable business. The data collection and transparency have been improved to meet future regulatory compliance requirements and the embedded sustainability metrics allow users to compare products and services, along with material flows and usage. The fact that is a cloud-based version of the database also means that companies do not have to account for the carbon and energy required of an on-premise installation, and can leave that portion of their carbon footprint to be accounted for by their cloud service provider.
SAP Learning Hub, Edition for SAP S/4HANA Cloud (HUB071) is a learning bundle on the learning hub that provides the best introduction to S/4HANA Cloud. It offers 12 months access to self-paced digital learning content and SAP expert-led learning sessions and peer-to-peer learning experiences in SAP Learning Rooms. The bundle also includes 60 hours of access to SAP learning systems for hands-on practice and two exam attempts for SAP Global Certification.
Other common SAP platforms and solutions that would contribute to training as a SAP sustainability consultant include SAP Business Technology Platform, and SAP Supply Chain Management.
The Green Economy
As an emerging aspect of SAP it is an evolving knowledge base and consequently training in this area is difficult to come by currently, but it is on the way. SAP understands that it is not just a question of addressing the ability of businesses to comply with environmental legislation. The green economy is a huge area for business opportunities, with all sorts of positions to be filled.
In a recent article about the role of the SAP Business Network in promoting sustainability through inter-company collaboration, Thomas Saueressig, SAP’s Product Engineering Lead and member of the executive board pointed out that according to the World Economic Forum: “the green economy is among the fastest-growing sectors, as measured by job growth, with a projected increase of 35% yearly worldwide.”
Sustainability Consultants Help Save The World
The role of SAP Sustainability Consultant is yet to rise to prominence but we can expect over the next decade it will become an increasingly important aspect of managing business processes. In view of the necessity of sustainability we can expect SAP to provide training for specific sustainability solutions to appear once these new packages have been released. It would be an excellent addition to an SAP practitioner’s skill set to be one of the first to get global certification when it becomes available. In the meantime those who want to train to be SAP sustainability consultants would do well to get basic qualifications in S/4HANA Cloud and SAP Ariba if they are looking to offer their services in this area.
Aside from the growing market for sustainability consultancy services, there is the need for the business community to take up the slack where governments have failed to create momentum on this issue. We are all stakeholders in this, and nothing is likely to provide greater job satisfaction at the end of the day than being able to say to yourself “today I helped save the world”.