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SAP Helps Panasonic Apply Sustainability Software to E-Waste Laws

Historically, corporate compliance with environmental regulations has been seen as the bare minimum a company should be doing. But as more and more states, regions, countries and continents put green laws on the books, simply keeping up with compliance can be a tall order for a global company.

E-waste is a good example of this kind of challenge. In North America alone, more than 30 U.S. states and Canadian provinces employ legislation for e-waste recycling. At the same time, retailers have their own requirements about product labeling and packaging. A recent study of IT managers found that just 13 percent knew about Europe's WEEE legislation -- despite being directly affected by its provisions.

Panasonic knows how complicated this can be. With 50 different electronics recycling compliance laws in areas where it operates, making sure it's in compliance is a big job.

For the last five years, Panasonic has had a partner in this job in SAP -- and SAP is announcing today that it has put its Recycling Administration application to work at Panasonic, saving 15 percent in overall recycling costs and reducing by 50 percent the number of hours employees have to devote to managing compliance to WEEE.

The software allows companies to pull in data from other applications and calculate each product's net weight. This way the company pays recycling fees based on that instead of gross product weight, which can include components not being recycled such as AC adapters and paperwork such as manuals and warranties. Key to Panasonic's successful use of SAP's Recycling Administration app is tight integration with software it already uses across its businesses; a design feature baked into SAP's business integration suites, according to Marty Etzel, vice president of sustainability solutions for SAP.

When SAP started looking at sustainability as a business opportunity four years ago, it found that operationally, the needs were no different from tracking cash flow or supply chain, he said.

"It needs a business process to do something consistently, a central database to be efficient and analytics to understand what the data is telling you," Etzel said. "A lot of data already exists in the system. You want to get all these pieces of data connected and to do it as efficiently as possible."

Using business-integrated software to track all this data and all these laws is fast becoming standard operating procedure, according to Etzel.

"We determined before we even ramped it up that this work would have a business case approach," he said. "So it's a natural extension to address that."

Installing and using software such as SAP's Recycling Administration app can lead companies to move beyond simple sustainability compliance to an authentic "a-ha moment," according to Jennifer Scholze, senior director of Sustainability Solutions, Product Safety and Stewardship at SAP.

Companies start to consider sustainability aspects at the design phase and begin looking at ways to shift away from dangerous or toxic materials such as lead.

"[Step] number one is being compliant," she said. "Once they see the data … instead of being less bad, companies are asking how can we be more good."

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