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SAP: how one company is travelling smart for the Olympics

SAP: how one company is travelling smart for the Olympics

SAP's office in downtown Vancouver!
SAP's office in downtown Vancouver!

As we talked about this week, we’ve done lots of outreach with businesses in downtown Vancouver to help them make travel plans for the Olympics.

And with 1,200 employees, SAP is a huge company who has really stepped up and made a plan for the Games!

So here’s an interview with Dorit Shackleton from SAP’s media team, where she tells us a bit about how travelling smart fits into SAP’s business plan, and what they did to prepare.

You might catch SAP’s story on TV too — CBC will have an item on their Games travel plan on tonight’s 5 p.m. newscast, and it will rerun on The National at 6, 8, 9, and 11 p.m.

1. Can you tell me a little about SAP and its business, and why you felt a travel plan was needed for your company?

SAP is the world’s leading provider of business software*, offering applications and services that enable companies of all sizes and in more than 25 industries to become best-run businesses. SAP has more than 95,000 customers and does business in over 120 countries.

In Vancouver, SAP is an employer of 1200 of the planet’s most committed and passionate high-tech professionals, with a very strong interest in sustainability and the community in which they live and work.

We felt a travel plan was needed as part of a holistic strategy to prepare for the Vancouver 2010 Games, to ensure our business continued to run without interruption during the Games, and that our employees were able to have a safe and positive experience at the same time. We also saw it as a chance to leave an Olympics legacy, to get more and more people out of their cars for good, to educate and raise awareness on green commuting options.

For the 2 week period of the Games, SAP Vancouver estimates it will reduce its CO2 emissions by about 22 tonnes of CO2 during Olympics; this is the equivalent of driving an average car almost 4x around the world

* SAP defines business software as comprising enterprise resource planning, business intelligence, and related applications.

2. How did you develop your travel plan? How did you bring it to your staff, and how did they respond?

We pulled together an Olympic committee of cross-functional staff and members of the management team, led by our Managing Director, Kirsten Sutton. Our travel plan was one part of a holistic plan addressing all the aspects of our business that may be impacted during the Olympics. This plan included a communications element, and we started taking pulse checks and providing regular updates to the Vancouver staff as early as last fall. Employees responded positively, as they saw that we were doing our utmost to ensure everything went smoothly in advance of, and during the Olympics, and that their concerns and feedback were taken into account.

3. What travel options were most popular with your staff? Will most be teleworking, or biking in, etc?

Even before the Olympic bid was won, 60% of our staff travel smart by choosing a green form of transit, so we are already way ahead of the curve. SAP provides Vancouver employees with a transit pass subsidy that when coupled with the Employer Pass Program from TransLink, provides a 50% discount for transit passes.

For the Olympic period, there’s a healthy mix of those who want to stay home and avoid the crowds, and those who absolutely want to be part of the action. For those who fall into the former group, many will work from home. For the latter group, most will either take public transit, bike or walk.

4. SAP did a “Snow Day” trial in January, to give their employees a trial run for traveling smart during the Olympic period. How did Snow Day go? Did people get more done, or did they feel better about their work?

Snow Day was a smashing success! About a quarter of the 1200 employees worked from home, with no incidents or issues to report. Several employees even tweeted about the experience.

SAP is a very global company, with many people working on transnational teams. So working from home is very common for us. Most people at SAP work seamlessly whether at home, in the office, on a plane, or in a hotel room halfway across the world. That being said, this was a great test to see whether we could maintain business continuity with such a large number of staff out of the office at the same time.

5. Do you think you’re ready for the Games? Will you continue to travelsmart in the future?

We are ready. At this point we are just putting the finishing touches on our Olympics Games plan. We are now gearing up to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while ensuring our business runs without interruption. And we will certainly aim to travelsmart post-Olympics. Our goal is to keep increasing the number of those who travel smart, well beyond Feb 2010.

6. Do you have any advice for other companies thinking of developing their own travel plans?

Start early, take into account your location, and the nature of your employees and business, solicit feedback from staff early and often, plan for every scenario! And most important – do a test run. Have that “snow day” to make sure that you’ve worked out any underlying issues before the big day.

7. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

SAP is committed to sustainability as a global initiative. In fact, we’ve made the pledge to reduce absolute CO2 emissions to year 2000 levels by 2020 (approximately 250,000t CO2). SAP announced a 16% decrease in its worldwide CO2 emissions in 2009 – well ahead of the targeted 5%. It reduced its carbon footprint by 80 ktons from 505 ktons in 2008 to 425 ktons in 2009. Through the use of the SAP® Carbon Impact, SAP was able to quickly determine its 2009 emissions.

Here in Vancouver we take that goal very seriously. The travel plans in place this year are just part of an overall commitment to live and work more sustainably in this beautiful city of ours.