SAP uncovers notable barriers to corporate sustainability

Leading procurement and supply chain technology provider SAP uncovers significant barriers to corporate sustainability initiatives in its latest research

Produced by global economic forecasting and econometric analysis Oxford Economics, and procurement and supply chain technology provider SAP, the two leading organisations have uncovered significant barriers to corporate sustainability initiatives. 


Key problems include: 

  • Lack of communication and engagement by executives
  • Ineffective use of data 
  • Siloed technology that don’t share processes or information
  • A lack of cross-company and industry collaboration and partnerships

The study showed that while the business case for sustainability initiatives is well understood, the value is not being realised.

Key benefits of sustainability according to organisations include:

  • Efficiency - 58%
  • Improved brand reputation - 46%
  • Ability to meet customer needs - 44% 

Overall, 63% of organisations have a formal sustainability plan already in place, according to Oxford Economics and SAP.

“Executives recognise that sustainability efforts can lead to better profitability, attract both customers and employees and drive a positive impact across their supply chains,” said Vivek Bapat, Senior Vice President, Purpose and Sustainability, SAP. 

He added: “But achieving these goals requires a high degree of communication and engagement. At SAP, we’re trying to understand how we can support these companies in realizing results from their sustainability goals and to defining best practices across industries.”

Leadership in sustainability

Oxford Economics and SAP’s research also found that many organisations had loosely defined sustainability commitments and limited connection with both internal and external audiences. According to the research, even those that do have a sustainability plan in place 66% of executives report that the scope and vision of the plans are not effectively communicated across both the organisation and externally. 

However, a small group was identified (9%), who have embraced sustainability-focused processes and as such, are reaping the benefits.

Traits of a sustainability leader:

  • Setting clear expectations at the strategic level
  • Apply the transformative power of technology
  • Data management
  • Engagement with important audiences - employees, partners and policymakers

“Sustainability leaders go beyond vision to ensure that sustainability initiatives are acted upon,” said Edward Cone, Editorial Director, Oxford Economics. 

He added: “They communicate with key constituencies both inside and outside the company, and they use integrated technologies to measure and track performance in a way that drives accountability.”

Jump-starting sustainability initiatives 

Highlighting key challenges to achieving sustainability initiatives, Oxford Economics and SAP offer ways in which organisations can address these concerns: 

  1. Executive sponsorship - Sustainability efforts should start with establishing an explicit plan, communicating and emphasising such a plan throughout the organisation.
  2. Clear and consistent communication - The vision then needs to be turned into action by employees. Connecting teams with clear goals can help to push for greater performance. 
  3. Process, technology and data integration - By not embedding sustainability into their core strategies, organisations face disconnected technologies and information, as well as prevent strategic planning. Unifying these assets creates greater visibility. 
  4. Extend practices to all stakeholders - Sustainability is a team effort which requires participation from the entire supply chain.
  5. Understand data - By capturing and analysing data organisations can gain insights into resources and efficiency. 

To read the full research study, click here

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