Photo: Léo Apotheker, CEO of SAP/Photo courtesy of SAP

The IT industry accounts for 2 percent of the world's carbon footprint -- the man-made carbon dioxide emissions that are a contributor to global warming. By now, this statistic from the Environmental Protection Agency is familiar to those who work in IT.

Environmentalists have backed a variety of measures to mitigate the problem. They say the public should drive hybrid cars and switch their lighting fixtures at home to fluorescent bulbs, among other changes.

But could part of the answer come from IT? Léo Apotheker, the CEO of SAP, thinks so.

The Germany-based business software provider intends to launch a "holistic suite for sustainability," Apotheker told assembled media last week at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the release of a new white paper commissioned by SAP titled Public Sector Sustainability: Recent Progress, Tomorrow's Challenges.

Apotheker said the suite could include an existing Web-based "carbon footprint calculator" that the company offers, and other components like smart metering platforms.

He didn't say how and if the new offering would be integrated into SAP's existing enterprise software, nor did he discuss the product's pricing model.

"Sustainability, global climate change -- all of these issues -- is one of the most vexing, most challenging things that mankind is going to have to address in the coming years," Apotheker said. "It's not just talking nice or being a tree hugging, loving person. It is a real issue."

SAP has set a target to reduce its own carbon footprint 70 percent by 2020 through fuel efficiency, videoconferencing, investing in renewable energy, he said. The company works with dozens of government departments, including the state and local market.

The white paper, prepared by FedSources Consulting, identifies sustainability initiatives that are under way in federal, state and local agencies. At the state level, budget issues are constraining states' sustainability efforts more so than in the federal government, according to the paper. Despite this, the number of sustainability initiatives in state government is increasing.

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor