Gearing Up for Earth Day with SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Daniel Schmid

Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” As a father of three, SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Daniel Schmid adheres to this principle both at home with his children and in the workplace with his team.

Throughout his 26 years as a leader at SAP, Schmid has consistently instilled this belief in his employees, all the more so in the context of sustainability.

“With SAP’s broad reach, our biggest lever is to enable our customers through our solutions to contribute to a more sustainable world,” he says. “But to be credible, we need to lead by example.”

With Earth Day 2019 on the horizon, I sat down with Schmid to ask how he is able to act as a role model for sustainability in his daily life.

“I am far from being perfect, but I try my best to walk the talk, learn, and continuously improve. From my point of view, it all starts with the right mindset and always asking myself what the impact of my decisions and actions are on people and the planet, in addition to the economics.”

A typical day starts with family breakfast followed by the 32 kilometer commute in his electric BMW i3 from Limburgerhof, Germany, to SAP headquarters in Walldorf, often alongside one or more colleagues with whom he matched using SAP’s carpooling app TwoGo.

“This provides me with the opportunity to meet employees from different SAP teams and discuss diverse views. It’s very insightful and a good reality check for me with regards to how sustainability is perceived by our workforce”

Upon arrival, Schmid plugs his vehicle into one of the charging stations, which use 100 percent renewable energy, in the company parking lot. As an avid sports fan, he is proud to exclaim — emphasis on “claim” — that he always takes the stairs up to his office on the fourth floor.

Energized by the climb, Schmid then delves into the day’s meetings, most of which are conducted virtually: “It’s just so much more productive than wasting time at the airport or in the plane. I don’t just believe in avoiding travel through virtualization because it saves costs or emissions, but it clearly reduces stress and improves work-life balance for our employees. It’s a real triple win for people, planet, and profit.”

At the same time, it’s important for him to put things into perspective and acknowledge the benefits of face-to-face meetings, especially when customer-facing: “If one of our sales people travels to an SAP customer to engage around how we can jointly pursue shared values, help the world run better, and improve lives, the positive impact can be so much bigger than the potential harm by a single flight or car drive.”

Schmid enjoys his frequent interactions with a wide array of customers and exchanging experiences and best practices with sustainability leaders from other companies. SAP account teams frequently engage him when purpose-driven customers such as Body Shop or Brewery AB InBev want to learn more about how SAP itself puts sustainability into practice – a journey that started 10 years ago.

“I find it very inspiring to hear about how our customers’ business models are changing. Across the board, I see them embedding sustainability more and more into the core business to address global challenges such as demographic changes and resource scarcity, be it in the utilities sector, manufacturing industries, or consumer goods. On the other hand, our customers are very interested, for instance, in how we connect our financial, social, and environmental performance and make the links transparent in the SAP Integrated Report or sustainability dashboard.”

The feedback from such customer conversations confirms his firm belief that sustainability is a driver for innovation: “It’s clear we need to do things differently if we want prosperity for more and more people while natural resources as water or clean air are becoming more constraint. I think it is an opportunity to come up with new solutions.”

As a judge in the Global Sustainable Development Goals Awards and the Circular Economy 2030 Contest launched by Google Cloud and SAP, Schmid has the opportunity to assess such new approaches addressing food waste, closed-loop plastics, and other circular challenges.

On most days, he engages with teams across SAP to promote the integration of sustainable impact creation across SAP’s portfolio and processes.

“It’s a joint effort by many and requires persistence. Sometimes, you have to wait for the time to be ripe. That’s also been the case for our aspiration for a world of zero waste. Then, all of a sudden, you gain unexpected momentum and supporters such as Stephen Jamieson and the SAP Leonardo team in the UK that successfully started the plastics challenge.”

While Schmid will continue to do the little things at home, like squeezing the last bits of toothpaste out of each tube and ensuring that none of his children’s leftovers go to waste, he is confident that there is still a lot of potential for him to drive change and scale across SAP and its more than 425,000 customers and nearly 100,000 employees.

At the end of the day, the passionate soccer fan sometimes engages in a fun match with SAP colleagues, an opportunity to bond with co-workers and maintain his own health and well-being. And every month he dedicates time to social causes in his home community with the local rotary club. Above all, he spends time with his children – the future generation to whom he wishes to leave a livable world where they can thrive as well.


Be Part of the Journey

We invite you to be part of SAP’s sustainability journey. Click below to share your personal commitment to a sustainable future alongside SAP’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) with your networks and add hashtag #sap4good.

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The more we spread the word and inspire others to join in, the better. Let’s collectively reach 5,000 posts by Earth Day on April 22 and SAP will plant 5,000 trees.


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