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In the name of the future

Written by  Rodolpho Cardenuto
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Rodolpho CardenutoIssue:Latin America 2009
Article no.:3
Topic:In the name of the future
Author:Rodolpho Cardenuto
Title:President
Organisation:SAP Latin America
PDF size:180KB

About author

Rodolpho Cardenuto is the President of SAP Latin America; he has over 25 years of experience in the technology sector. Prior to joining SAP, Mr Cardenuto held several managerial positions at Hewlett Packard, most recently as Executive Director for the Latin America & Caribbean TSG (Technology Solutions Group). Rodolpho Cardenuto holds an Electrical Engineer degree from the FEI - Faculdade de Engenharia Industrial of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and an Engineer degree from the Washington University, St. Louis, USA. Mr Cardenuto also earned an MBA in Finance and Administration from BSP, Sao Paulo, Brazil, as well as an MBA in International Business from the University of Toronto, Canada.

 

Article abstract

Sustainability is about more than just recycling plastic bottles or pieces of paper, more than virtualization, energy-efficient data centres and green IT tools; it is a business imperative part of the ‘triple bottom line’ of ecological, social and financial performance. “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Enterprise software can provide tools to manage resources efficiently and responsibly by optimizing and transforming business processes.

 

Full Article

Rivers of ink have been used to write about sustainability and its utmost importance in the future of human life. However, what do we mean when we talk about sustainability and the challenges it brings from a business perspective? What does it mean that a company should attain sustainable growth? Certainly, it is not just about reducing the carbon footprint. Nor is it just about religiously recycling every plastic bottle or every piece of paper we throw away at the office. It is not even just about virtualization, more energy-efficient data centres and green IT tools. The challenge goes way beyond those commonplace answers that businesspeople tend to give when asked about sustainable development. Most definitely, when we talk about sustainability from a business point of view, we are going beyond a philanthropic concept, that could be related to corporate social responsibility activities, and beyond the mere concept of ‘being green’. Sustainability is, undeniably, a business imperative unto itself. I have always fancied the definition that the Bruntland Commission gave more than two decades ago: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In order to do so, it is imperative that every sector of our society - private, political and civil - collaborate and focus on a common goal: working on moulding the present in order to build a better future. Today, companies are starting to have a more holistic approach to sustainability. They understand that being sustainable in their operations is a moral obligation, and that it can certainly be achieved without disrupting the business goals of profitable growth. It has already been almost three decades since world leaders reached a global consensus on the fact that economic growth must be made more socially equitable and more compatible with preserving the natural resource base. Sustainability as a business imperative is closely related to the obligation which companies have today of being accountable before all of their stakeholders: customers, public, employees, shareholders, and governments. This has to do with what is called the ‘triple bottom line’: a company should be accountable for its ecological and social performance in addition to financial performance. In other words, sustainability is about holistically managing economic, social and environmental risks and opportunities, both within an organization and across the business networks it operate in. What are the environmental risks? We all know that climate change associated with man-made greenhouse gases, a growing scarcity of resources, and a world population that grows rapidly, are all factors that profoundly impact not only the way people live and will live in the future, but also the way we do business across industry sectors and geographies. The vulnerability of our planet is not news anymore. Although the direct greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) occur naturally in the atmosphere, human activities have changed their atmospheric concentrations. From the pre-industrial era, which ended around 1750, to 2005, concentrations of these greenhouse gases have increased globally by 36, 148, and 18 per cent, respectively. If we add to this scenario a highly globalized economy, in which companies no longer operate as silos but as part of extended business networks, we can see that the challenge of being sustainable calls for immediate action. Supply chains across business networks can only be sustainable if every one of its members participates. Organizations have no other choice than to become fully transparent, accountable, and sustainable. I firmly believe that the 21st century has brought with it a completely new reality, and a new era of corporate responsibility. On the other hand, as it has happened before, American government legislation can impact on other countries. For example, some of the security initiatives after 9/11 had an immediate impact on the United States’ business partners and forced compliance quickly across regions. The U.S. cap and trade initiative may have a similar effect forcing companies in Latin America and abroad to adopt measurement tools immediately, and begin implementing CO2 reduction goals. Since the rate of new government-driven environmental initiatives around the world is growing faster by the day (something like 300 major new initiatives per year), tracking and adhering to the new regulations will only be done with software - it will be impossible to track on spreadsheets like many companies do today. Technology has always been the human being’s best friend, if used intelligently. It has made our lives easier, and can certainly become the main ally to face the growing challenges of sustainable development in the business world. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been the engine that fuelled the digital revolution, and it has been among society’s main sources of prosperity. There is a strong trend in the IT and Communications realm towards providing the tools to help companies become more sustainable while at the same time, the IT industry itself is becoming more conscious about its own carbon footprint. As a matter of fact, the IT and communications industries today cause about two per cent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This figure is roughly the same as the entire airline industry! And as long as this sector keeps growing, it will cause three per cent in the near future if it continues operating in a business-as-usual scenario. A Harvard physicist stated recently that the energy consumed by performing two Internet searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle. I am convinced that the technology tools known as enterprise software - that is, the applications designed to help run a company through end-to-end business processes - can help speed up the transition to a lower-impact economy, empower civil society, improve transparency across business networks and enable more effective and regulatory systems. How can technology help companies operate in a more sustainable way, while they remain focused on the ultimate goal of every business, which is being profitable? Most important, how can the ICT industry become sustainable itself? Enterprise software can provide the tools to manage resources efficiently and responsibly by optimizing and transforming business processes. For example, with high fuel and CO2 costs associated with transportation, enterprises - particularly logistics service providers - need innovative solutions to optimize their logistics, for their own good and the planet’s. Enterprise software can help them to address the specific needs of their logistics and travel operations, optimise supply chain management and use energy efficiently. We can see that, now more than ever, closed loop supply chains across business networks are crucial for a strategic perspective on sustainability. In fact, closed loop supply chains can close material flows, which in turn will help limit emissions and residual waste. At the same time, an optimized supply chain will allow companies to deliver more value to its customers by, for example, providing customer service at a lower cost. The whole Information Technology and Communications industry is being reshaped by this new global challenge. The industry itself is, in fact, the main actor of a play performed on a planetary stage and that involves every sector of human society. The game has new rules, and it is undeniable that the future of the global economy is inextricably linked to a sustained commitment by business and governments to the environment and to the society. Those of us who work in the technology industry have the moral obligation of promoting development that will not compromise the needs of the future generations. This is a CEO level discussion, and companies are trying to figure out how they will measure, adapt and conform to new regulations. It is not just a ‘nice to have’ anymore, there is an identifiable, specific economic rationale for being sustainable.

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