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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is currently being held in Glasgow, Scotland under the co-presidency of the United Kingdom and Italy. The focus of the conference is to work towards securing global net zero by mid-century keeping 1.5 degrees within reach, adapting to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilizing finance, and working together to accelerate an action plan. It is a topic that is of utmost importance and we see action being taken globally across all types of businesses and industries to use innovations to support more sustainable ways to live and do business.

 From consumer to enterprise to federal government action

An economic transformation is underway that can be attributed to new sustainability practices, a call to action that is changing the future of business. Regulatory committees, investors, consumers, and employees increasingly call for more socially, environmentally, and economically responsible goods and services. The market is seeing consumers requesting sustainable products and services through their buying behavior. Evidence to which we can see in the numbers. According to a STERN Center for Sustainability Business report, products marketed as sustainable grew more than five times faster than conventionally marketed products and three times faster than the CPG market. When given choice, today’s consumer is more likely to select the more environmentally responsible option.

Sustainability has become a critical topic for enterprises to reduce emissions and waste, increase circularity, and use socially responsible practices throughout product lifecycles. Simply put, business leaders are listening to the customers’ call to buy sustainable products and are looking to address how to make sustainability profitable. Accenture’s CEO study confirmed that 99% of CEOS from companies with $1+ Billion in annual revenues believe sustainability is important to the future success of their business. When it comes to the workforce, research into workplace priorities of Millennial and Generation Z employees has found they rank sustainability as a leading concern when evaluating the companies they choose for employment. Sustainability matters, from the products you make and how you make them, to the type of talent you can attract can all hinge on your company’s sustainability model.

Even federal governments are stepping in to take action. Recently an alliance of German companies, including SAP, called for more tangible measures for climate protection from the federal government. The companies said in a joint statement that Germany must be put on a “clear, reliable and predictable path to climate neutrality.” Besides SAP, other participants include Allianz Insurance, Eon, Bayer, Adidas, General Electrics, Deutsche Post, and Ikea. With governments requesting action, there is a huge opportunity to engage technologies that optimize carbon emissions, increase operational efficiency by activation of circular business processes, and connect with socially responsible partners to help organizations make better informed decisions.

Among CEOs that see sustainability as a driver in the future is SAP’s own Christian Klein, stating, “Sustainability is no longer optional but has become key to the long-term success of any business. It’s about defining new competitive advantages, lowering risks, building resilience to pricing regulations, gaining ground with investors, and being ahead of emerging consumer demands.” Earlier this year, SAP launched its Chasing Zero movement focused on using the power of technology to create a world of ZERO emissions, ZERO waste, and ZERO inequality. In support of SAP’s initiative and in response to new sustainability requirements of the market, SAP.iO engages globally with the latest startup innovations to deliver on the vision of helping customers gain insights into their carbon footprints, material flows, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

We run programs to accelerate startups focused on sustainability.

From the consumer to the enterprise to federal government action, our startup innovation has it covered. The SAP.iO team has the privilege of partnering with startups whose technology assists organizations as they shift their priority towards sustainability. During our partnership with these companies, we bring them together with SAP customers and can learn firsthand what resonates and what solutions meet the industry’s ever-changing needs. Alone this year’s fall / winter cohorts support a wide variety of sustainability goals:

  • Foundry Singapore’s Future of Work Program focuses on helping customers increase the value of their workforce by developing, managing, engaging, and empowering their people to develop a skilled, healthy & inclusive workforce.
  • Foundry Munich’s New Mobility Program is helping customers manage connectivity in transport, fleet management, charging and battery management, and automated and autonomous driving. Solutions that enable incremental steps towards sustainable mobility for urban, sub-urban and intra-urban mobility needs.
  • Foundry New York’s Sustainability in Retail & Consumer Program helps customers in the Retail, Consumer Products & Fashion industries drive sustainability across the value chain, including circular packaging, responsible & ethical sourcing, and responsible design & production.
  • Foundry San Francisco’s Sustainability in Energy & Natural Resources Program supports customers in the Energy and Natural Resources industries build sustainable businesses, improve experiences, and manage their environmental footprint and sustainability goals, including compliance, regulation, tracking, & carbon trading.
  • Foundry Paris’s Circular Economic Program helps drive circularity for customers in service industries such as passenger & cargo travel and engineering construction and operations by helping redefine the design, production, demand, and supply of products through their use cycles for reusability, waste reduction, and new value creation.

What we’ve seen:

This past spring SAP.iO Foundries Berlin & Munich teamed up with Accenture on a Sustainability focused startup program to help address critical challenges across industries and create a positive impact on both society and business. The main objective of our collaboration was to attract the world’s most talented founders by providing the perfect environment to grow their business. Combining Accenture’s industry expertise and specialized skills, with leading SAP technologies, expert mentors, and APIs, we will be able to jointly identify innovative use cases and startups that have the potential to transform our global economy into one that benefits all stakeholders. You can take a closer look at the innovative companies that participated here. In working with Accenture and our startups we were able glean important information which we compiled in our thought leadership paper entitled: Sustainability: The Next Digital.

Drive sustainable impact with SAP.iO startup solutions

How is this done? How do we begin to steer the ship in a direction that will meet all our sustainability goals? In working with SAP customers and SAP.iO startups, we’ve seen that the desire to impact this matter coupled with the innovative technology needed to turn the tide, but it must be looked at as a journey instead of a destination. Industries and companies are at different stages of maturity, with requirements in other areas across teams. The challenge is how to make sustainability profitable.

The good news is as an SAP customer you can act now; you don’t have to wait; we can help move you along this journey faster. How? We start by initiating an innovation session to define and prioritize the critical sustainability areas. Then we leverage our experience and startup ecosystem to discover innovative solutions specifically for your business and provide the opportunity to meet with startups to learn about their solutions. Then you can pilot and implement startup solutions that will help achieve your sustainability ambitions.

This post was originally published by Alexa Gorman on LinkedIn. To learn more about SAP.iO sustainability programs, you can visit