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Tech titan SAP aims to slash emissions

Software giant SAP AG plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half during the next decade as part of a broad sustainability initiative.

The Walldorf, Germany-based company (NYSE: SAP) is striving for a 51 percent reduction of its direct and indirect emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by 2020. Hitting the target would return SAP to its year-2000 emissions level of 250,000 metric tons of CO2, company executives said in interviews today.

SAP, which makes process-management software for businesses, does not plan to buy carbon offsets to negate direct emissions stemming from energy consumption by data centers and other large operations, underscored Daniel Schmid, who heads up the company's sustainability efforts. For example, SAP will try to cut by 5 percent the energy it uses this year in office buildings by swapping out inefficient light bulbs and heating and cooling equipment, among other things.

SAP also plans to increase to 68 percent the share of hydropower and other renewable energy it uses in its headquarters complex. The Walldorf complex, which includes several office buildings and data centers, accounts for about 40 percent of the company's total energy consumption today, Schmid said.

SAP will use as its measuring stick the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an international carbon accounting tool that is administered by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

SAP plans to reduce its indirect emissions -- such as the CO2 emitted by commercial jets used for business trips -- by cutting down on miles traveled and buying carbon offsets, Schmid explained.

"With air travel, we would like to reduce [mileage] by 5 percent this year compared to last year," added Schmid, whose company will report regularly on its emissions-reduction efforts in corporate sustainability reports.

In addition to slashing its carbon emissions, SAP plans to roll out software that would help its more than 80,000 customers in 120 countries track their energy consumption as well as manage environmental risks in their supply chains. The firms account for about 5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, which is one-sixth of the total amount generated by humans and 10,000 times the amount generated by SAP, estimated Marty Etzel, the company's vice president of sustainability solutions.

"Customers are asking for this," Etzel said, citing a 2008 survey. "Energy reduction is their number one priority."

SAP joins other major IT firms that are hoping to both clean up their act and capitalize on regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and abroad. Last year, Microsoft Corp. released a set of best practices for administrators running data centers that focus on energy-saving strategies the company is implementing in its own operations. In 2007, IBM Corp. launched an energy efficiency certificate program to help IT companies to measure and potentially monetize energy reductions (Greenwire, Nov. 2, 2007).

Office computers, data servers and telecommunications devices consumed about 6 percent of U.S. electricity in 2007, nearly triple their share in 2000, according to the Technology CEO Council, a lobby group composed of the chief executives of Dell Inc. and nine other sector companies.

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