Chief Sustainability and Commercial Officer at SAP
SAP was founded in 1972 when computers filled an entire room and were connected to monochrome CRT displays. This group of early technology pioneers went on to become the global leader in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. SAP built and installed solutions that help run critical business functions from finance to supply chain to human resources. Ninety-nine of the 100 largest companies run SAP solutions, also 97 of the greenest companies. The company’s reach into global business is impressive – SAP customers account for US$46tn, or 87% of all global commerce.
SAP’s mission now is to embed sustainability into the core business of its customers. Using its formidable scale and reach, SAP connects sustainability data with other cloud-based corporate data so that companies have a more complete, accurate, and actionable understanding of their sustainability performance. By bringing sustainability into finance, procurement, and business networks, the aim is to make sustainable business the standard operating procedure.
While SAP has offered sustainability management solutions for many years, only a few years ago did it make the strategic move to develop a portfolio of specialised, cloud-based software solutions to help customers tackle difficult sustainability challenges at industrial scale. These solutions cover a number of areas, including climate action, circular economy, social sustainability, as well as holistic steering—the evaluation of corporate impacts on society and wider economy—and reporting. Under a co-general management structure, a team was formed within SAP to build and help customers adopt the new solutions.
Gunther Rothermel is Chief Product Officer for SAP Sustainability. He’s been with the company for 25 years leading development teams.
Sophia Mendelsohn is Chief Sustainability and Commercial Officer for SAP Sustainability and has focused on advancing sustainable business for 20 years.
Together, Rothermel and Mendelsohn are Co-General Managers for Sustainability at SAP.
Rothermel spent most of his career in SAP. “I work more on the technology platform side of the house,” he says. Alongside his personal interest in the topic, Rothermel realised that there was a massive data challenge in corporate sustainability and this is why he began solving problems in this area.
Meanwhile, Mendelsohn cut her sustainability teeth in China. “That's where I really became committed to the idea of marrying up free-market solutions with sustainable outcomes,” she says. “I’m often called an OG in corporate sustainability. Before, we called it EHS and then CSR, then sustainability and then ESG. Now, we are moving towards business integration.”
A co-general manager structure makes sense for SAP and sustainability solutions, Mendelsohn adds, “I think what Gunther and I combine very well at SAP is my understanding of the market need with his understanding of sustainability data and integrating it with other corporate data.”
“We cover a broad range of sustainability challenges for our customers,” he says. “A lot of things are coming fast. It’s an exciting time because there’s a lot of new ways we are applying advanced technology to sustainability management while at the same time there’s a lot of regulatory changes happening.”
One major challenge, however, is to find solutions for the problems at hand, while some of the standards and industry regulations are not there yet, he said.
For Mendelsohn, SAP's ESG data management strategy and solutions, like the SAP Sustainability Control Tower, is about creating the best data foundation so companies can level up to holistic, enterprise-wide sustainability management.
“One thing Gunther has taught me at SAP is that there is still a huge amount of uncertainty with sustainability data,” says Mendelsohn. “With so much of the regulation and ambition oriented around reporting and transparency, our challenge is to make reporting easier so they can focus on transitioning their business activities to be more sustainable.”
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