5 lessons from SAP to spur integrated reporting and thinking

Over the past several years, we at SAP have talked about how we cannot limit ourselves by merely trying to create a sustainability strategy.

Instead, we have been working to make our corporate strategy more sustainable. This month, we hit an important milestone on this journey with the publication of our first integrated report, which combines content from our annual report and sustainability report into one online experience.

The SAP Integrated Report is about much more than how we deliver information about our performance. It speaks to our vision of what it means to create value in the 21st century. No longer do financial results alone capture our ability to respond to the world's challenges or serve customers. Instead, we are looking holistically at the interrelationship between our financial and nonfinancial performance. These linkages are not just important -- they are the foundation of our future success.

We believe that leading companies will be those that best navigate the major issues of our time, a global mix of environmental, social and economic challenges. An integrated report signals that the business landscape has changed, and it is no longer possible to separate sustainability from the core of how we operate and what we deliver to customers. It is also a significant step towards truly integrated thinking, the precursor to developing a strategy and actions that ensure our future success, relevance and viability.  

We also recognize that a single report does not capture the full complexity (and messiness) of change. What will it really take to achieve the vision of an integrated report? We don't pretend to have all the answers, but we have picked up some lessons that are helping to guide our path:

1. Make it material: Position sustainability at the center of how your company creates value

Sustainability needs to reach far beyond your carbon footprint or energy savings to your strategy and services. As a leader in enterprise software, we are in the business of helping companies manage resources with IT. Today, they must manage resources that have historically been ignored, such as water, energy and intellectual capital. Our business success hinges on our ability to help our customers contend with everything from the explosion of mobile technology to the pressures of population growth and the strain on natural systems. Working to create a more sustainable world goes hand-in-hand with seizing new business opportunity by delivering software solutions that help customers manage the challenges that arise in their industries, be it resource shortage, urbanization or environmental health and safety risks.

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