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Technology for Good – episode twenty seven with SalesForce’s Peter Coffee

Welcome to episode twenty seven of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had SalesForce‘s Vice President of Strategic Research, Peter Coffee as the guest on our show.

We have met a talked with Peter a couple of times, and have always been impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, as well as his thoughts on things environmental. Also having seen that, when asked to come up with a challenge for the Cap Gemini Super Techies Show, he went with…

Present a technology vision for taking an existing bicycle manufacturer and retailer to the next level as a transportation option

 

… we were very keen to have Peter as a guest on the show.

We covered some fascinating stories on the show, including the White House’s plan to use technology to unleash data to help America’s agriculture sector, how Facebook’s Internet.org is helping people get online in Zambia, and a new initiative to help parents do simple science experiments at home with their kids.

Here is the full list of stories that we covered in this week’s show:

Climate

 

Transport

Apps/Mobile

Apps/Cloud

Crowdsourcing

Security

Open technologies

Moore’s Law

Diversity

Education

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The Global Reporting Initiative, their new CEO, Social, Mobile and Big Data

Michael Meehan - GRI new Chief Executive

We were delighted to hear this week that friend of GreenMonk’s for many years now, Michael Meehan was recently appointed as CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

The GRI is a non-profit organisation that produces one of the world’s most prevalent framework’s for sustainability reporting. One of the GRI’s main aims is to make sustainability reporting by all organisations as routine as, and comparable to, financial reporting.

Michael takes over the GRI at an interesting time. As we reported here on GreenMonk recently, the interest in sustainability reporting is on the rise globally

carbon scores are now not only showing up at board level, but are also being reported to insurance companies, and are appearing on Bloomberg and Google Finance. He put this down to a shift away from the traditional regulation led reporting, to a situation now where organisations are responding to pressure from investors, as well as a requirement to manage shareholder risk.

In other words the drivers for sustainability reporting now are the insurance companies, and Wall Street. Organisations are realising that buildings collapsing in Bangladesh can have an adverse effect on their brand, and ultimately their bottom line.

On a call to Michael earlier this week to congratulate him on his new role, he mentioned that while around 6,000 organisations currently report to the GRI, his aim is to increase that number to 25,000 organisations.

To do that, at the very least, the GRI needs to embrace social, mobile, and Big Data.

The GRI has traditionally operated below the radar, but in order to grow the GRI, never mind growing it to 25,000 reporting organisations, working quietly is not sustainable. It has to become more aggressive with outbound communications – social in particular. While the GRI has a Twitter account with over 15,000 followers, there’s no mention of the account anywhere on the GRI’s website. Worse again, the organisation’s Facebook page is one automatically generated by Facebook based on Facebook users posts and interests (!), and the organisation’s Youtube channel was similarly generated automatically by YouTube’s video discovery system.

On the mobile front, the organisation’s website is not mobile aware. Nor does it have any mobile apps in the main app stores. In a time when more and more web browsing is going mobile, the GRI urgently needs to formulate a mobile strategy for itself.

And finally, on the Big Data front, in our conversation Michael expressed a definite interest in making the GRI’s terabytes of organisational information available as a platform for developers. The data is a huge repository of information going back over years. The ability to build analytics applications on top of this would yield massive benefits, one has to think.

Fortunately for the GRI, Michael is a serial entrepreneur with a history of successful exits in the sustainability space. If anyone can modernise the GRI, he can. We wish him all the best in his new role.

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Sustainability and SAP?

SAP former CEO Dr Peter Graf

Dr Peter Graf, SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer announced that he’s leaving SAP yesterday.

There has been a significant purge of executives re-organisation at SAP in the last few weeks since CTO Vishal Sikka resigned suddenly, and Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe stepped back from his Co-CEO role leaving Bill McDermott as sole CEO.

Taken in isolation, the departure of Graf from SAP wouldn’t be too concerning, but SAP’s sustainability team has lost four of its most senior executives in the last few months. Jeremiah Stone was VP for SAP’s Sustainability Solutions. Scott Bolick was VP Sustainability. James Farrar was also VP of Sustainability for SAP, and Peter Graf was the Chief Sustainability Officer.

The loss of four such senior figures in such a short time leads to obvious questions about SAP’s ongoing commitment to sustainability.

Coincidentally I’m at SAP’s customer and partner conference SapphireNow this week, so I look forward hearing SAP’s take on this.

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SAP running six week online course on Sustainability and Business Innovation

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s as they are also known, are training courses delivered online, allowing for large numbers of students to enroll in the courses. When I signed up for an introductory data science course with Coursera last year I had over 50,000 ‘classmates’ taking the course with me. The network effect of haveing thousands of students taking the same course at the same time meant that the forums were actually useful places to interact and get questions answered.

I was interested then to hear from DJ Adams that SAP is running a MOOC on Sustainability and Business Innovation. The course is being given by SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr. Peter Graf.

It is a six week course, commencing on April 29th (2014), with 4-6 hours of instruction per week, with a final exam on June 10-17th (2014).

The course content (below) looks to be quite comprehensive:

Week 1: The Business Case for Sustainability
The week contains the following units: Welcome; Root Causes; Sustainable Value Creation; Engaging Top Management; Organizational Setup for Sustainability & The Role of IT

Week 2: Sustainable Strategies
The week contains the following units: Crafting a Sustainable Strategy; Stakeholders and Materiality; Analysis and Target Setting; Examples of Environmentally Driven Initiatives; Examples of Socially Driven Initiatives & Examples of Transformational Innovation

Week 3: Sustainable Business Processes (Part 1)
The week contains the following units: Embedding Sustainability Into Business Processes; Sustainable Design; Sustainable Sourcing and Procurement; Sustainable Production & Sustainable Logistics

Week 4: Sustainable Business Processes (Part 2)
The week contains the following units: Sustainable Consumption; Sustainable End-of-Life Processes; Environmental and Social Capital Accounting; Sustainability in Finance and Administration; Sustainability in HR & Sustainability in IT, aka Green IT

Week 5: Stakeholder Engagement
The week contains the following units: Engaging Line of Business Leaders; Engaging Employees; Engaging Society – Corporate Social Responsibility; Engaging Business Partners, Authorities and Opinion Leaders & Engaging Investors

Week 6: Sustainability Reporting
The week contains the following units: Purpose, Audiences and Standards; Data Quality and Assurance; Integrated Reporting; Report Delivery; Rankings and Recognition & Recap of Key Course Learnings

Week 7: Final Exam

I’m particularly happy to see the data quality and assurance being covered. With the move towards an increasingly quantified and transparent world the importance of knowing how to measure and interpret data cannot be underestimated.

If you are interested in signing up, or simply knowing more about the course, head on over to the course site, preferably before the class commences this coming April 29th. Over 9,200 people have already registered, so it looks like it will be a lively few weeks for all involved.

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SAP Startup Focus in newly industrialised countries

Vishal Sikka, SAP CTO

As we have said before here, sustainability job number one is putting bread on the table. To that end, it was great to see SAP’s Startup Focus program take off so well, gaining over 1,000 companies signed up in less than two years.

We profiled the Startup Focus program here on GreenMonk earlier this year, talking to three of the participant companies about it. They were very enthusiastic about how it had helped them break into the enterprise software market, and said they wished they’d joined the program sooner.

More recently, we spotted news from TechEd Bangalore that SAP CTO Vishal Sikka announced there that of the over 1,000 companies who have joined the Startup Focus program, 158 of the come from India. I’d love to know what percentage of the Startup Focus companies overall come from newly industrialised countries, and what level of employment they are helping create.

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SAP, the move into startups, and job creation

Sustainability job number one is putting bread on the table.

Given that, and the huge numbers of people out of work at the moment, any initiative which fosters employment creation, is a definite sustainability win.

Recent research conducted by the US Census Bureau and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that:

…virtually all net new job creation over the past three decades has come from new businesses less than one year old – true “start-ups.” New businesses, according to the research, create an average of three million new jobs annually, while existing firms of any age, type, or size shed a net average of about one million jobs each year, as some businesses fail and as others incorporate technology and become more efficient. If the policy target is job creation, new business formation is the bull’s-eye.

With that in mind, anything which specifically encourages startups is definitely to be lauded.

Now you don’t often hear SAP and startups mentioned in the same sentence, but that may be about to change. In March last year (2012), SAP decided to change that, so they set up their Startup Focus program. They help an event to which they invited startups, and they chose 10 to work with. These were showcased at Sapphire. By late last year, the number of companies enrolled had grown to 150. By this year’s Sapphire (May 2013), the number of companies had swelled to 450. And by this year’s TechEd (October 2013), it was announced that the number was now in excess of 1,000 from 55 countries globally.

That’s a very impressive growth rate, which SAP are continuing to extend, by all accounts. I spoke to several of the startup companies at TechEd and they were full of praise for the program, their only regret being that they hadn’t joined it sooner!

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Dell launches its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan

Dell water bottle

Yesterday (Oct 15th 2013) Dell published their 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. In this plan they commit to

leaving a positive, measurable, and lasting contribution to out planet and our society.

Lofty goals indeed, but what about some of the more concrete specifics? Well Dell has published 21 concrete goals with an end-date of 2020 by which they have to achieve them.

The goals cover three distinct categories, Environment, People and Communities.

The Environmental goals include:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our facilities and logistics operations by 50%
  • Reduce the energy intensity of our product portfolio by 80% and
  • Ensure 100 percent of Dell packaging is either recyclable or compostable

The People goals include:

  • Increase university hiring to a rate of 25 percent of all external hiring
  • Engage 40 percent of our global Dell team in employee resource groups by 2020 and
  • Achieve 75 percent favorable responses (or higher) in team member satisfaction globally as measured through the annual employee satisfaction survey

While the two Community goals are:

  • Engage 75 percent of team members in community service by 2020 and provide 5 million cumulative hours of service to the communities in which we live and work and
  • Apply our expertise and technology in underserved communities to help 3 million youth directly and support 10 million people indirectly to grow and thrive

The goals are all extremely laudable and measurable, and Dell has committed to transparency in the process. It will be interesting to watch Dell’s progress with the plan, especially as we come closer to the end-date 2020.

Dell claims to have worked closely with its customers in formulating this plan, but according to this Twitter conversation, not all Dell’s customers are on-board, as yet

An obvious goal missing from the People section would be to increase the number of female executives in the organisation, though Dell is already one of the top US companies for executive women. No harm to have written goals for this too though.

Finally while discussing this initiative with David Lear, Dell’s Executive Director of sustainability programs, I asked him what was going to happen to this program given Dell’s move from being a publicly traded to a privately owned company. He responded that because the plan was generated in consultation with Dell’s customer base, those customer’s were unlikely to change significantly after the privatisation, and Dell’s commitment to them wouldn’t change either.

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Ariba’s AribaLive conference reviewed

AribaLive 2013

I attended the AribaLive event in Berlin last week – this is the European conference for Ariba customers and partners to share stories, network and learn from one another.

Ariba is a company which provides electronic sales and procurement solutions for companies. There are over 1 million companies in 190 countries using Ariba. Customer companies mentioned or presenting included Clariant, Solvay, Disney, Deutsche Bank, Astra Zeneca, Fujitsu, Aviva and EADS. Naturally I was curious to hear how their customers fared from dematerialising parts of their buying and selling processes.

I wasn’t totally clear on some of the advantages the Ariba offers buyers and sellers until Ariba President Kevin Costello, in his keynote explained it with a good analogy to the likes of Facebook, Amazon and eBay. As Costello said, Facebook has completely changed how people connect/reconnect. Similarly, eBay and Amazon have totally transformed how people shop for goods. I knew exactly what he meant as I’ve recently bought a new camera. I started by checking camera review sites and Amazon reviews to find the best camera for my needs. I then went to both eBay and Amazon to identify the best deal, from the most reputable seller. Being able to see peer reviews not just of the camera, but of the sellers as well, meant I was very confident when I decided to buy my secondhand camera, that I would get a good product at a good price.

In the same way, Costello said, the Ariba Network brings huge transparency to enterprise buyers and sellers, allowing them to make purchasing, or sales decisions more efficiently and with fewer concerns. In fact, the consumerisation of business commerce was a term used throughout the event.

Several customer presentations followed with organisations like Spanish building company FCC mentioning that they both source €2 billion, and cut 80,000 electronic invoices with their Ariba system annually. They estimate they are saving 10% per annum by using Ariba.

Apart from the efficiencies of using electronic solutions, how else does one benefit (to the tune of 10%, for example) by using Ariba?

invoice

Well part of the answer was provided in the talk given by EADS Vice President of Accounts Payable, Bob McCartney. He talked about the cost of dealing with incoming invoices for EADS. According to McCartney, dealing with an invoice manually costs EADS €15, running it through OCR brings the price down to €4 per invoice, while the price of dealing with e-invoices is €2. That is massive – electronic invoicing is half the cost of OCR’d invoices and seven and a half times cheaper than manual invoices. Right there you see a huge business case for e-invoicing.

Other advantages of electronic invoicing outlined by McCartney were – a recurring 22% cost saving, increasing on-time payment of suppliers, improved visibility/forecasting of the company’s cash position, and improved relations with suppliers (more process transparency, as well as on-time payments).

Finally, Ariba’s Supplier Risk Management solution was interesting to learn about as well. This solution allows users to, for example, figure out in the event of a natural disaster in a distant part of the world, what the potential impact may on your organisations supply chain. Though a more interesting use case, given it can drill down several layers into your supply chain may be avoiding the use of conflict minerals in your products, for example.

Full disclosure – Ariba paid my travel and accommodation to attend this event.

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SAP releases its Integrated Report 2012 – an integrated financial and sustainability report

SAP released their first Sustainability report in 2008 (their 2007/2008 report). Like the reports of most other companies at the time, it was released as a PDF document but SAP quickly shifted gears. SAP’s 2008 Sustainability report, was released as a website. This had the dual purpose of making the site more accessible, and also allowing SAP to see which areas of the site had more traction. The following year they made their report more social and every year since they have added something new.

As well as releasing its Sustainability reports each year, SAP also published its annual financial reports. This year, for the first time, SAP have integrated the two reports and they have just published their SAP Integrated Report 2012. It takes the form of a highly interactive website with built-in analytics and downloadable PDF’s.

This was an idea GreenMonk first mooted when I asked SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf in a 2011 interview whether SAP had any plans to integrate the two documents.

On a conference call at the launch of the integrated report, SAP Chief Accounting Officer Christoph Hütten went to great pains to stress that this wasn’t merely the content of both reports in one, but that the content was very tightly bound together. The report demonstrates how connections and inter-dependencies between financial and non-financial performance impact each other, he said.

The document/website contains all the financial and sustainability-related information you would expect to find in reports of this type. And the report also has a nice page showcasing and explaining the connections between the financial and non-financial performance.

Other nice features of the report are an integrated tweetstream showcasing mentions of the #sapintegrated hashtag on some pages, an option to make notes on pages (with the ability to download those pages as PDF’s subsequently), and the download centre for downloading the annotated pages, as well as financial statements, graphics and other reports.

For the first time also, SAP are releasing their 2012 sustainability information in XBRL format (.zip file) – something GreenMonk also suggested to SAP back in 2011. If you are unfamiliar with XBRL, it is an XML-based global standard for exchanging business information.

Impressive as well was the fact that at the end of the conference call launching the report, Peter Graf mentioned that SAP are actively looking to co-innovate. He asked that anyone, be they in the financial or sustainability reporting space, who is interested in integrated reporting get in touch with him to work together to bring integrated reporting to everyone “at the lowest possible cost and highest possible precision”.

The video above is a demo of the report and I have placed a transcript of the video here.

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Sustainability, social media and big data

The term Big Data is becoming the buzz word du jour in IT these days popping up everywhere, but with good reason – more and more data is being collected, curated and analysed today, than ever before.

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter announced last week that Twitter is now publishing 500 million tweets per day. Not alone is Twitter publishing them though, it is organising them and storing them in perpetuity. That’s a lot of storage, and 500 million tweets per day (and rising) is big data, no doubt.

And Facebook similarly announced that 2.5 billion content items are shared per day on its platform, and it records 2.7 billion Likes per day. Now that’s big data.

But for really big data, it is hard to beat the fact that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider creates 1 petabyte of information every second!

And this has what to do with Sustainability, I hear you ask.

Well, it is all about the information you can extract from that data – and there are some fascinating use cases starting to emerge.

A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found that Twitter was as accurate as official sources in tracking the cholera epidemic in Haiti in the wake of the deadly earthquake there. The big difference between Twitter as a predictor of this epidemic and the official sources is that Twitter was 2 weeks faster at predicting it. There’s a lot of good that can be done in crisis situations with a two week head start.

Another fascinating use case I came across is using social media as an early predictor of faults in automobiles. A social media monitoring tool developed by Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business can provide car makers with an efficient way to discover and classify vehicle defects. Again, although at early stages of development yet, it shows promising results, and anything which can improve the safety of automobiles can have a very large impact (no pun!).

GE's Grid IQ Insight social media monitoring tool

GE have come up with another fascinating way to mine big data for good. Their Grid IQ Insight tool, slated for release next year, can mine social media for mentions of electrical outages. When those posts are geotagged (as many social media posts now are), utilities using Grid IQ Insight can get an early notification of an outage in its area. Clusters of mentions can help with confirmation and localisation. Photos or videos added of trees down, or (as in this photo) of a fire in a substation can help the utility decide which personnel and equipment to add to the truckroll to repair the fault. Speeding up the repair process and getting customers back on a working electricity grid once again can be critical in an age where so many of our devices rely on electricity to operate.

Finally, many companies are now using products like Radian6 (now re-branded as Salesforce Marketing Cloud) to actively monitor social media for mentions of their brand, so they can respond in a timely manner. Gatorade in the video above is one good example. So too are Dell. Dell have a Social Media Listening Command Centre which is staffed by 70 employees who listen for and respond to mentions of Dell products 24 hours a day in 11 languages (English, plus Japanese, Chinese, Portugese, Spanish, French, German, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Korean). The sustainability angle of this story is that Dell took their learnings from setting up this command centre and used them to help the American Red Cross set up a similar command centre. Dell also contributed funding and equipment to help get his off the ground.

No doubt the Command Centre is proving itself invaluable to the American Red Cross this week mining big data to help people in need in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.