Hitachi Consulting talks benefits, challenges of SAP carbon management software

Hitachi Consulting discussed the benefits and challenges of implementing SAP Carbon Impact -- SAP's on-demand carbon management software.

Hitachi Consulting wanted to practice what it preached when it came to carbon management software.

The SAP systems integrator, which has been implementing SAP sustainability software at customer sites, implemented SAP Carbon Impact software in January to help with its goal of reducing its carbon footprint, according to Robert Farris, vice president for environmental sustainability software at Hitachi.

"Specifically, we've got targets to reduce our footprint by 100 million metric tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions," Farris said.

Hitachi Consulting, the business and IT consulting company of Hitachi Ltd., is also aiming to join the EPA Climate Leaders program, an industry-government partnership that works with organizations to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Hitachi Consulting had to determine its overall environmental footprint in order to join the program, Farris said.

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 Carbon Impact is the new name for Clear Standards, the carbon management software SAP acquired in early 2009. While many organizations use spreadsheets, SAP Carbon Impact provides companies with reporting and tracking tools for carbon footprints and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The application is part of SAP's portfolio of sustainability solutions, which also includes Performance Management; Risk Management; Sustainability Analytics; Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Management; and Green IT.

SAP wouldn't disclose the number of companies currently using SAP Carbon Impact.

Organizations can use the tool to measure and compare carbon intensity across operations, establish reduction targets and then execute on what they consider to be the most effective abatement strategies.

"Companies are looking at going beyond reporting to understanding that they need to reduce their carbon footprint due to regulation or because they recognize that the carbon footprint represents inefficiency in their system," said Scott Bollick, vice president of sustainability strategy at SAP.

Hitachi Consulting began implementing the tool and underwent initial training in January, which included 60 hours of day-long training, administered by SAP instructors.

Hitachi didn't automatically decide on SAP. The company looked at several options, which were at startup companies, according to Val Haskell, director at Hitachi Consulting in the Environmental Sustainability Solutions practice. But going with SAP eliminated the risk involved with a startup, which might not be around a few years from now.

Hitachi found an added benefit in the fact that Carbon Impact is an on-demand product, Farris added.

"The fact that it's a SaaS tool was attractive to us because we run a lot of our services that way," he said.

The on-demand model translated to a quick deployment. In total, it took Hitachi Consulting six to seven weeks from initial training to the go-live, Farris said.

Before buying software, however, organizations need to have a handle on all the data around calculating a carbon footprint, Bollick said. And that can be challenging.

"For those companies that haven't put in place anything for collecting data, obviously it's going to take longer," he said. "I would encourage companies to establish their carbon footprint as they're beginning to use the software."

Hitachi Consulting already tracked data related to company travel and air miles, which accounted for a large portion of its carbon footprint.

"We were able to calculate miles flown and able to translate that into greenhouse gas emissions," Farris said.

The amount of travel-related data was too large to fit into Carbon Impact all at once, however, forcing Hitachi to aggregate it. The travel data was the only data the group had to aggregate when implementing Carbon Impact.

"It was a really good exercise for us and for SAP because they realized that as more people used this tool, there would be larger data sets [going in]," Haskell said.

Hitachi also faced a speed bump in trying to get data from the landlords that lease out offices to Hitachi Consulting throughout the country. The goal, Farris and Haskell said, was to capture data for whatever the offices were using, including electricity, natural gas and water. The group had to retrieve the data for the entire building in which each office was located, then pro-rate the data to figure out what applied to Hitachi's office, Haskell said.

That process was relatively painless, as it took only a short while to filter that data into the system.

"Once we got that, we were virtually ready to go at the end of March," Haskell said. "We went live about two or three weeks later."

Users can expect to see this become easier down the road, as the software will be updated as regulations and carbon-related data requirements will continue to change.

"This is one of those areas where rapid innovation is important, and why we're keeping this as an on-demand platform," Bollick said. "You're going to continue to see rapid innovation on Carbon Impact."

There have been no problems with the tool so far, Farris said. Any additional challenges they may run into could be addressed by SAP folks who are assigned to Hitachi Consulting for troubleshooting.

Currently, Hitachi Consulting is the only company within Hitachi Ltd. that has implemented the software. But Haskell and Farris said they are hoping to set an example for the larger organization both in the U.S. and abroad.

"It's very easy to use," Haskell said. "It's very visually appealing."

 

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