On Monday March 25, global software provider SAP released its first Integrated Report. The firm has released a separate Sustainability Report since 2007 but took this a step further in 2013 by integrating the Annual Report and the Sustainability Report into one online document. Verdantix attended an online session hosted by Peter Graf, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Christoph Hutten, Chief Accounting Officer, to launch the report.
Two features of the report particularly stand out, both in terms of SAP’s achievement and the challenges that face all firms when integrating their reports.
The first: SAP’s report goes a step further than merely combining two previously separate reports. The Connecting Financial and Non-Financial Performance page allows users to see clearly the links between 14 different economic, social and environmental performance indicators. This demonstrates to stakeholders the business case for embedding social and environmental considerations into the business. To add weight to this section, SAP should add more tangible financial metrics supporting the business case for sustainability. For example, what cost savings did the firm achieve from energy efficiency? And how is the portfolio of energy, environment and sustainability software applications performing? Integrating with the relevant industry metrics from SASB would also be a meaningful project for 2014.
The second particularly noteworthy feature is the interactivity of the report. Readers are invited to tweet about the report, using #sapintegrated, and tweets are profiled live on the report website. Browsers are also posed questions such as “How do you like the SAP Integrate Report?” and the site’s inbuilt polling function displays how the voting stacks up. Readers can customise their report download and generate charts. Making sustainability interactive, accessible and relevant for a wider group of audiences, such as mainstream investors or customers, will stand SAP in good stead to take the sustainability message out to audiences beyond those that seek the information (commonly known as the ‘green ghetto’) and enable SAP to reap further reputational benefits.
For SAP, the business case for integrated reporting is clear because it sells the sustainability software that facilitates the creation of an integrated report which is based on XBRL tagging. For a head of sustainability like Peter Graf, winning the battle of wills with the CFO to embark on the multi-year journey to integrated reporting is a major win. Next stop: investors and equity analysts.